Women in leadership: Are you experiencing the ‘Influence Gap’?

Women in leadership: Are you experiencing the ‘Influence Gap’?

Guest Bloggers | 22 July 2020

Leadership coach Carla Miller said that when she read the ‘Missing Out: Understanding the female leadership gap in fundraising’ report she was disappointed to see that not much has moved on in the past 15 years, so much so that she wanted to share with senior women in leadership the skills to manage upwards and master the “Influence Gap”.

Over the 13 years that I’ve spent coaching fundraising leaders I’ve noticed that there is one skill which separates the overworked, often overwhelmed and frequently frustrated leaders from the successful leaders that really stand out.

Both groups are equally talented at fundraising. Both groups are great at leading teams and able to bring the best out of people.

However when it comes to managing upwards and sideways the frustrated leaders never really seem to make any progress.

Some of them hit a brick wall with either their line manager or a senior decision maker, which means that they struggle to get their team the resources, the respect and the information that they need to succeed. Others spend hours dealing with tensions between their team and other teams and wonder why the value of their team isn’t fully recognised.

Perhaps that resonates with you?

I call this the “Influence Gap”. No matter how good you are at your job and how well you manage a team it is almost impossible to succeed as a leader without the ability to influence upwards and sideways. Can you think of any leader you admire that hasn’t mastered influencing?

When you know how to influence others effectively so many things become possible for you…

  • Tensions between departments get resolved
  • Previously challenging colleagues are on your side
  • CEOs and board members start listening to what you have to say and even actively asking for your input on decisions
  • You can clear the way for your team to be able to deliver at a high level without obstacles
  • Your potential within the organisation is recognised


Influencing is a leadership superpower and it is one that all successful leaders have mastered. And yet we are rarely taught how to influence and when we are it is generally in terms of influencing donors, not senior colleagues.

Last year I recognised that a lot of the women in leadership who came to me for coaching were experiencing the influence gap. And whilst from the outside they looked calm and confident, internally they were also experiencing high levels of worry and frequent imposter syndrome, which were negatively impacting their wellbeing.

So I created the Influence & Impact group coaching programme for women in leadership who want to become brilliant at influencing, tackle self doubt and make more impact at work. My coaching framework covers mindset (how you are holding yourself back), communicating with confidence and clarity and advanced influencing skills.

But more than that, it brings together a group of driven, conscientious women in leadership and gives them a chance to mentor, support and learn from each other. The two cohorts I’ve run to date have shown me that there is something really powerful in hearing someone else articulate the thoughts, feelings and challenges that you thought you were the only one struggling with.

It’s the programme I wish I had been on when I was in my first few senior leadership roles. I became a Director of Fundraising & Marketing at 29 and at the time I was one of the youngest fundraising directors in the sector. In fact I’d been told that same year that as a young-ish woman I would struggle to be taken seriously by Trustees at director level and was discouraged from applying for a promotion to director level.

So when I read the “Missing Out: Understanding the female leadership gap in fundraising” report I wasn’t surprised by its contents but I was disappointed that not much has moved on in the past 15 years.

I was pleased to see this topic on the Institute of Fundraising’s agenda so I got in touch to talk about running a cohort of my Influence & Impact programme specifically for women in leadership in fundraising roles and the challenges they face. Because women in leadership in fundraising supporting and championing each other and learning how to successfully influence their CEOs, colleagues and Boards is one important step towards encouraging more women into leadership roles and changing the conditions which hold them back from applying at the moment.

As you can probably guess by the fact you’re reading this blog post, the Institute of Fundraising said yes and our first cohort starts mid September. You can find out more and join us here.

Carla Miller is a leadership coach who is running the live virtual training 'Influence and Impact for Women in Leadership', starting on Tuesday 15 September. Find out more here.





Post a comment

Please click the box below to indicate you are a human rather than an automated system completing this form.