Jan. 19, 2017

eCornell program helps professional women advance

Women today are half of the workforce at the beginning of the corporate talent pipeline, yet barely 19 percent reach the CEO level and they are underrepresented everywhere in between, according to according to LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co. management consultants.

To help organizations everywhere close this gap, eCornell is offering an online program that provides women with a highly personalized approach to achieving their leadership goals. Designed by award-winning Cornell professor Deborah Streeter, the new Women in Leadership certificate gives professional women in every industry and function actionable tools and influencing tactics to transform unseen barriers to success into open doors.

“Professional women today have access to lots of leadership materials, but few consider how gender interacts with organizational culture to block advancement,” said Streeter, the Bruce F. Failing Sr. Professor of Personal Enterprise and Small Business Management at Cornell’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. “This certificate is a rare resource for women, giving them a private space for self-reflection paired with research and real-world insights. It can also help all organizational leaders, including men, better understand the gender dimensions of leadership.”

The five courses comprising the Women in Leadership certificate examine the core determinants of leadership success in the context of “the double bind,” a pervasive cultural bias involving assumptions about how women should look, think and act. Streeter starts by exploring research on how women are often penalized for using stereotypically masculine leadership behaviors but seen as weak if their behavior is deemed too feminine. For example, according to LeanIn.org and McKinsey, women today are “leaning in” more – by negotiating for raises, promotions and challenging assignments nearly as much as men – but are 30 percent more likely to get negative feedback that they’re “bossy” or “too aggressive,” and they still lag men in promotion rates.

The remaining courses cover essential negotiation skills, emotional intelligence, performance feedback and work/life balance – all giving women tactics they can quickly apply to influence positive outcomes in conversations at work. Throughout, students use self-assessments and targeted activities to build confidence, become more aware of their individual tendencies, and gain new perspectives through video interviews with women leaders from a cross-section of industries – a small sampling of the thousands of interviews Streeter has collected to bring authentic voices from the workforce to her classrooms.

Designed to be completed in three months, eCornell’s Women in Leadership program is relevant to women at any career level but especially valuable for those in early management roles – where studies show the greatest gender disparity in promotion rates – as well as those who aspire to leadership positions and have at least three to five years of professional experience. The program also offers organizations an applied, personalized learning and development option to fill a gap in gender diversity efforts.

Students who successfully complete this certificate program receive a Women in Leadership Certificate from Cornell’s College of Business, one of 11 Leadership and Strategic Management certificates offered by Cornell University in partnership with eCornell.

Megan Burke is chief marketing officer for eCornell. Sarah Thompson is a freelance writer.