3.5 Leadership development opportunities and gender
The importance of leadership development opportunities, including mentoring, emerges from the literature. Such opportunities have been shown to be especially important for women (Dever et al., 2008; Ibarra, Carter and Silva, 2010; Lyness and Thompson, 1997, 2000; Ragins and Cotton, 1999; Tharenou, 2001; Van Velsor and Hughes, 1990). Griffiths (2009) places particular emphasis on the importance of coaching and action sets suggesting women only groupings may also provide the necessary space for support and encouragement. The significance of support from senior managers and also other women as role models are other important findings (Coate et al., 2015; Hoskins, 2012). Showunmi et al. (2015) examine the intersection of ethnicity, gender and class in school leadership identifying the need for more dialogue and a re-appraisal of leadership development programmes.
One perspective from the United States argues that organizations must develop and take advantage of all employees’ capabilities by creating conditions that give leaders of both sexes an equal chance to succeed (Powell, 2011). However, the ‘benevolent sexism’ mechanism may also be operating against women accessing leadership development opportunities so highlighting ‘the critical role of biased manager perceptions on women’s career development opportunities and career aspirations’ (Hoobler et al., 2014:725). This ‘well-intended benevolent and/or paternalistic discrimination’ occurred regardless of the manager’s gender so adding to the list of ‘ambiguous, subtle discrimination that women face in the workplace, such as micro-inequities in interpersonal treatment’ (Hoobler et al., 2014:706).