Female Leadership: Advantages, Challenges, and Opportunities
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” – Sheryl Sandberg
Truer words have never been spoken. As companies worldwide from Accenture to General Motors take on the mantle of creating a gender-balanced workforce, this will soon become a reality. In fact, Accenture hopes to achieve a gender-balanced workforce by 2025 and foresees women to account for 25% of its managing directors globally by 2020.
Having more women in leadership positions has been talked about for several years; and, there’s no doubt that there are more female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies today than ever before. Yet, as of May 2018 there are only 24 female CEOs. This is under 5% of the total list of Fortune 500 CEOs.
The time has come for more organizations to tackle the under-representation of women in leadership and to strengthen the female leadership pipeline. While women need to start taking charge of their careers, men, too, must embrace female leadership and empower the women around them.
The competitive advantage women leaders offer to an organization
- Women excel at soft skills and emotional intelligence that may prove to be a key competitive advantage. A 2016 study by the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry reveals women scored higher than men on almost all emotional intelligence competencies with the exception being emotional self-control; here no gender differences were observed. Competencies included emotional self-awareness, conflict management, empathy, and teamwork—all essential for effective leadership in an organization.
- Today’s business problems require leaders with diverse skill sets, perspectives, and experiences. Having more women at the top enables men and women to challenge each other and have better and more balanced boardroom conversations.
- Results from a 2016 survey Is Gender Diversity Profitable? by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the accounting firm EY reveals that the CEO position and board membership matter far less than having a pipeline of female managers. Thus, it’s not just about getting lone women to the top. Close to 22,000 publicly traded companies in 91 countries were surveyed. Companies also need to make it seamless and easy for women to hold their positions while taking care of their families. The bigger the pool of women, the more can make it to the top. That’s when it becomes a win-win for the women and the companies they’re a part of.
Challenges and Opportunities
Gender gap in the workplace remains a big business problem. And unless we move beyond tokenism and truly strive to make our workforces diverse and inclusive, we will be unable to breed creativity, promote innovation and push the envelope when it comes to growing our companies.
The fact is men and women work side by side, walk the same hallways and tackle the same business challenges. Yet, they inevitably experience the workplace differently in some ways. For instance, though employers have begun to offer generous maternity leave, women deal with the fear of being judged and analyzed for taking a career break. However, contrary to popular belief, motherhood doesn’t diminish career ambition as per Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2017 survey Motherhood and Ambition. In fact, working moms are just as likely to aspire to senior leadership as women without children.
Though organizations have begun to take steps to support and treat women equally, women too, need to own their place in the organization. They need to proactively step up, turn every experience into an opportunity, maximize their access to leadership positions, and never, ever doubt their abilities.
Calling for more women in the workplace should not be a race to meet a quota; it should be about maximizing an organization’s potential, better decision-making, higher employee retention, and increased innovation. An organization where women can be found at every rung will be a better workplace for everybody.