Article: The perks and challenges of women at the helm


The perks and challenges of women at the helm

Women-led organisations serve as a driving force towards a globally inclusive and thriving business environment.
The perks and challenges of women at the helm

In the evolving landscape of the global economy, women-led organisations have carved out a significant niche, showcasing resilience, innovation, and a distinctive leadership style that brings myriad benefits to the business world. As of early 2023, female executives have achieved a significant benchmark by heading over 10% of Fortune 500 companies, with at least one company in the top 10 being led by a woman. Although this figure might not seem impressive at first glance, it represents a significant advancement when viewed in the context of the historical struggle for women to reach the highest leadership positions in the corporate world. For many years, the Fortune 500 list featured merely one or two female CEOs. Going back to the year 2000, there were only four companies in the Fortune 500 led by women. Fast forward to today, and the number has surged to 53 women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. These entities, steered by women, are a testament to the power of diversity in fostering a more inclusive and equitable professional environment. However, the journey of women at the helm is not without its challenges, marked by societal biases and structural barriers. 

Also read: Getting a foothold, and staying put, in boardrooms

The rising tide of women's leadership

The gradual ascent of women to leadership positions has had a profound impact on the business landscape. Women are increasingly founding companies, occupying C-suite positions, and leading enterprises toward success. This shift transcends gender equity, spotlighting the unique perspectives and leadership styles women bring to the table, which are instrumental in driving innovation, empathy, and collaboration within organisations. According to McKinsey's research, companies with executive teams in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability than those in the lowest quartile. Research by McKinsey has revealed that companies ranking in the top quartile for gender diversity within their executive teams are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability compared to those in the lowest quartile. Further supporting this finding, studies conducted by academics from the Universities of Glasgow and Leicester indicate that companies with over 30% female executives are more likely to surpass the performance of organisations with less female representation at the executive level.

Perks of women-led organisations

Women-led organisations are distinguished by several inherent positives that contribute to their success and resilience in a competitive marketplace:

Innovative problem-solving and multitasking

Women leaders often excel in innovative problem-solving and multitasking, leveraging a combination of intuition and analytical thinking. Their approach to challenges is typically holistic, considering the broader impact of decisions on all stakeholders. This ability to juggle multiple tasks and think outside traditional paradigms fosters innovation, enabling these organisations to be nimble and adaptable.

Emotional intelligence and team building

A hallmark of many women in leadership is high emotional intelligence (EQ), facilitating strong relationships within teams and with external partners. This EQ underpins effective communication, empathy, and the ability to inspire and motivate, creating a positive work environment that boosts productivity and employee satisfaction. The emphasis on team building and loyalty is another asset, as it cultivates a sense of belonging and mutual support among employees.

Commitment and sustainable practices

Women-led organisations often demonstrate a strong commitment to their vision and values, including a focus on social responsibility and environmental stewardship. This dedication not only benefits the planet but also aligns with the growing consumer and investor interest in ethical business practices.

Challenges facing women-led organisations

Despite the advantages, women in leadership roles encounter several challenges that stem from societal biases and misconceptions about women's capabilities:

Access to capital

Securing funding remains a significant challenge, with women entrepreneurs often receiving less venture capital than their male counterparts. This disparity highlights the gender biases among investors, rather than reflecting the viability or potential of women-led businesses.

Perceptions and bias

Women leaders frequently face stereotypes that question their competence, particularly in areas traditionally dominated by men, such as sales/marketing or roles requiring extensive travel. These biases can undermine women's authority and make it more challenging to assert leadership across all business functions.

Work-life balance and flexible working environments

The challenge of balancing professional and personal responsibilities is amplified for women leaders due to societal expectations. A flexible working environment becomes crucial to managing last-minute deadlines and the demands of leadership roles. With such flexibility, women leaders may be able to maintain the effectiveness and responsiveness of their organisations.

Trailblazers in action: Women leading the charge

Leading the charge in the realm of innovative women-led companies, Twinco Capital, under the leadership of Sandra Nolasco (CEO) and Carmen Marin (COO), exemplifies how visionary women are transforming the finance sector. Twinco Capital's unique platform revolutionises trade finance by facilitating access to affordable working capital, thus driving competitive global production networks and fostering inclusive economic growth. This digital-first approach, devised by experts in trade finance, demonstrates the power of women-led firms to spearhead significant industry advancements. Following closely in innovation, Enfuce, co-founded by Monika Liikamaa and Denise Johansson, has dramatically altered the fintech industry with its scalable, secure, and regulatory-compliant payment solutions. As Finland's leading fintech startup, Enfuce is not just pioneering in cloud-based payment processing but is also a testament to the remarkable impacts of diversity in leadership, merging technological innovation with a staunch dedication to environmental and social governance​​​.

The future is inclusive

Women-led organisations are forging paths to success through resilience, adaptability, and a supportive ecosystem that includes mentorship, networks, and policies aimed at levelling the playing field. Increasing access to capital, combating bias through education and awareness, and fostering flexible work environments are key to enabling women leaders to overcome these challenges.

The narrative of women-led organisations is a compelling argument for a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous business world. Their ascent is not just a victory for gender equality but a boon for the global economy, benefiting from the diverse perspectives, innovative problem-solving, and empathetic leadership styles women bring to the table. As we move forward, the hope is that the challenges faced by women in leadership will diminish, paving the way for a future where leadership is defined by capability, vision, and impact, regardless of gender.

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Topics: Leadership, Diversity, #InternationalWomensDay

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