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A recent and McKinsey report finds that women are less likely to be hired into manager-level jobs and even less likely to be promoted into them. Havas Group Chief Talent Officer Patricia Clarke saw those trends mirrored in her own firm, with fewer females in the upper rungs of the corporate ladder. “We had a lot of women in our business progressing from entry level to mid-level manager. But we saw a slowdown [from] senior director promoted up to the first rank of executives,” she says. The awareness of the benefits of diversity was a major factor in taking a closer look at why women were dropping off the leadership track, adds Clarke. Internal research and external data suggested that big changes were going on for women about seven to nine years into their careers. “A lot of women might see having a change in family life, or they would be pleased with their role but not be aspirational. They were hard on themselves,” she says, which made for a self-confidence gap along with the ambition gap. Because of the complexity, Clarke says, the solution needed to be multifaceted and holistic, going beyond basic training seminars and workshops. After extensive research and development, they launched Femmes Forward to advance women’s roles within the Havas and Vivendi networks in January 2018. It is a comprehensive learning program mix of skills-based training modules, professional leadership assessments, inspiration from internal and external thought leaders, group coaching and networking with senior-level sponsors that spans months with a “commitment circle” at the end to wrap things up and give the participants a solid goal to take with them. Each participant is assessed with Lumina Spark, a psychometric profile tool, before they move on to cover such topics as negotiation skills, having difficult conversations, conflict resolution and leading with conviction and resilience, among other things. Clarke says there are between 20 to 25 participants per cohort and they are chosen from among those at that crucial seven- to eight-year experience level where many drop off. They are high performers who are responsible for a team and are open to learning and development opportunities, both educational and inspirational, she says. Support from within the company (from both male and female employees) is crucial to making these programs work, she adds.

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