Investing in genuine development opportunities for the women on your team pays enormous dividends. Studies show that companies with women in leadership positions demonstrate better returns, increased innovation, and higher resilience than companies without (HBR).

Alternatively, studies have also shown that organizations that overlook the development of women in leadership often experience costly results, including a higher rate of turnover. According to the Carlson College of Business, employees at organizations that overlook development are 3 times more likely to withhold ideas and five times more likely to speak negatively about their company than companies that are supportive of their employees.

The most common ways that companies offer leadership development include access to mentors, books, courses, workshops, or some combination of those options. These are all great resources and opportunities, but when it comes to developing women in leadership, the best return on investment comes from attending women-centered, in-person events like Women IGNITE! Let’s explore five reasons why.

1. Increased Productivity Through Networking

Leaders with active networks solve problems more effectively, build stronger teams, and get promoted faster. That is because women typically don’t work solo; they reach goals with and through others. Women with well-rounded networks have access to ample resources, support, mentorship, encouragement to overcome setbacks, and a reputation that motivates others to take action.

However, as crucial as a robust network is, it’s not always easy for women to make time to build and nurture those relationships. Women, especially those in male-dominated fields, face unique networking challenges and often don’t see the same results when they approach networking the same way their male peers do. Providing opportunities for women in leadership to attend in-person events can fill that gap.

A study published by HBR found that “women who signed up for and attended women-specific conferences were twice as likely to receive a promotion than their peers who signed up for a women’s conference but did not attend.” This study is particularly interesting because it demonstrated that it is the conference experience that made the impact, and not other factors.

Investing in women-centered, in-person events like Women IGNITE! provides a perfect opportunity for women to connect with and learn from other women as they build their network. Participants return with valuable connections and new skills.

2. Engage and Retain Your Top Performers

Actively disengaged employees cost companies 500 billion dollars annually. According to Gallup, 50% of employees disengage after just six months in a new position, with a primary reason being a lack of developmental opportunities. Although 91% of companies have a women-focused program in place, only 27% of women say they have benefited from it.” Boston Consulting Group. Organizations may have intentions of retaining women in leadership, but without a deep understanding of leadership training, these programs can fall flat.

The good news is that 95% of disengagement can be avoided. Keep your top performers engaged and maximize their potential by discussing and providing regular opportunities to expand their development.

Attending events like Women IGNITE! helps women clarify their priorities, build critical skills, reignite motivation, build confidence, and keep them engaged.

3. Promote Creative Problem Solving

Women in leadership face unique challenges that are often magnified in male-dominated fields. A 2018 study by Greguletz et al. reported that women who attend female-led professional development programs walk away with key insights and advice that they are less likely to receive from men in male-dominated fields.

Women who attend these programs were better able to navigate these challenges, accelerate their growth, and problem-solve in ways mixed-gender leadership conferences don’t address. These results multiply when women attend events outside of their organization with opportunities for fresh ideas, insights, and perspectives that promote innovation and creative problem-solving when they return.

4. Develop Culturally Competent Leaders

Cultural competence can be defined as the ability to understand, empathize, and work well with people from cultures and experiences different from your own. The Boston Consulting Group conducted a study that found companies with diverse management teams had 19% higher revenue than homogeneous teams. That study also reported that teams with gender diversity have higher rates of innovation. Organizations with gender-diverse leadership teams also reach new markets, are more efficient, and have clearer communication than those who do not (McKinsey & Company).

Working in an organization that encourages cultural competency and diversity increases a leader’s ability to understand, empathize, adapt, and communicate effectively. Leadership books, internal organizations, and mentorship are all valuable forms of development, but they cannot replace the value of a women-focused leadership program that develops skills central to cultural competence.

5. Improved Focus, Energy, and Clear Priorites

The COVID-19 pandemic hit women in leadership positions especially hard. According to a report by McKinsey, “women in corporate America are even more burned out than they were last year—and increasingly more so than men.” One reason that McKinsey cited for the higher rate of burnout during COVID is that women in leadership were more attentive and took on additional tasks to support their team’s emotional well-being.  

Untreated burnout is costly. According to Gallup, in 2021, burned-out employees cost the company $3,400 out of every $10,000 in salary because they are disengaged in their work and lack focus, energy, and priorities. Having practical tools that leaders can use and share with their team is central to avoiding the pitfalls of burnout and getting out of it.

Attending events like our annual Women IGNITE! experience give women valuable tools they’ll use to increase their effectiveness and impact, navigate ongoing uncertainty, and build a powerful network that includes women outside their company who are ready to help.

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