By Sarah J. Pearsall & Michelle Q. Schneider

Research confirms it – having women in leadership is good for business. Gender diversity increases organizations’ revenue, innovation, and overall success.1 Additionally, staff at organizations with women leaders also report having higher job satisfaction, increased engagement, and decreased burnout.2

This year, we’ve seen women rise into senior leadership roles like never before; there are a record number of women in Congress, Kamala Harris was elected the first female Vice President, and Roz Brewer (Walgreens) and Thasunda Brown Duckett (TIAA) became the first two Black women to be named CEO of Fortune 500 companies. Although these are great signs, women remain dramatically underrepresented across sectors.

There are a number of factors that can hinder women’s success and paths toward formal leadership.  Gender-related barriers and biases in the workplace result in fewer opportunities for women to get developmental experiences, promotions, and salary increases, ultimately limiting their advancement.3 Given what we know about the importance of having women leaders, it is critical that women have access to opportunities and support to help them overcome these obstacles. In this blog, we look more closely at some of our women’s leadership programs to understand the role that leadership development can play in helping us achieve the desired outcomes.

40-Year Track Record with Results

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) has been at the forefront of women’s leadership for more than four decades. We conducted some of the earliest research around breaking the glass ceiling and have reached thousands of women around the globe with our innovative programs designed to meet the unique leadership needs of women across industries, leader levels, and cultures.

Post-program evaluation data from our women-specific leadership programs indicate that participants reported the program was applicable to their job, relevant to them as leaders, and helped them leverage their unique value.

Case and Point: Mid-Career Women Rise at Major Biopharmaceutical Company

In an effort to accelerate the readiness of women for higher levels of management and leadership at a major biopharmaceutical company, CCL designed and delivered a Women’s Leadership Journey aimed at mid-career women. This custom, 6-month cohort-based training experience focused on increasing participants’ confidence, career awareness, resilience, and leadership identity through the use of blended pre-work, face-to-face and virtual learning, action learning projects, network mapping, mentoring, manager involvement, and connections with senior women leaders at the organization.


To date, more than 100 women across six cohorts have participated in the program. We conducted an in-depth evaluation study on the inaugural cohort to better understand these participants’ experiences and the impact of the program. To do this, we collected data from not only the participants, but also their managers to obtain a more comprehensive view.

With regard to individual outcomes, participants reported, and managers agreed, that they were more effective as leaders, more effectively contributing to success within the organization, better prepared for future leadership positions, and that the program was worth it overall.

With regard to group outcomes, participants reported improving in their ability to engage and empower other women, listening to and including diverse perspectives, and awareness of how to advocate and amplify other women.

When asked for examples of what have changed in their own words, participants and their managers emphasized networking, team engagement, and culture work.

When asked how the program will help develop the pipeline of women leaders over time, themes of awareness, access, and encouragement emerged.


As we observe Women’s History Month, including International Women’s Day, we recognize that women have always been leaders, though their journeys have not been easy. Now, more than ever, we need women in leadership. As more women step into their power, it is critical that we all play a role in encouraging them and providing opportunities to prepare and strengthen them to be leaders. To learn more about how you can engage in this work, visit our website for free resources to get you started. Additionally, visit CCL’s Library of Research to learn about our work.


1 Eswaran, V. (2019). The business case for diversity in the workplace is now overwhelming. World Economic Forum.

2 Badal, S. B. (2015). The business benefits of gender diversity. Gallup Business Journal.

3 Zhao, S. (2020). Overcoming barriers to women’s leadership [White paper]. Creative Leadership.