When I was a CEO, I knew I needed co-pilots around my executive table. Piloting a business in an environment of increasingly fast-paced turbulence, with such high stakes decision making and so many strategy, execution, and leadership challenges, requires Collective Intelligence in the cockpit. I was running high technology aerospace hardware and software companies, serving […]Continue reading
Differences In Women’s Leadership That Are Critical For Business Recovery
Businesses that still take a paternalistic view of women as the weaker sex are hurting themselves. Besides the fact that women as a group represent a larger economic opportunity than markets in India and China combined, their presence in the executive suite is also the key to capturing and keeping high-quality talent in increasingly competitive markets.
In addition to which, companies with a minimum of three women on their board of directors tend to have the best results when it comes to Return on Equity, Profit Margins, and Return on Invested Capital.
Translation: Having women in leadership positions is guaranteed to be one of the most significant factors for any organization’s survival and success as the world continues its COVID-induced pivot.
It’s A Universal Issue
According to the World Bank, “Women around the world still face huge, persistent gender gaps at work.” Their study observes; “Trends suggest women’s labor force participation worldwide has stagnated over the past 30 years, dropping from 57 to 55 percent globally, despite accumulating evidence that jobs benefit women, families, businesses, and communities.”
“The reasons for this will differ from country to country, but we think that the persistence of norms—which means that women don’t have as much choice over their livelihoods as men—as well as legal barriers to work are both playing important roles,” says Jeni Klugman, World Bank Group Gender and Development Director.
These norms have boxed today’s professional women into a no-win position. If they’re too tough, they’re accused of trying to be like a man. If they tear up, they’re accused of being too soft. Yet the only “crime” women in the business world can successfully be accused of is…not being a man.
But with the strengths women as a group bring to professional environments, men who are shortsighted, insecure, or unwilling to relinquish their power over women may be the difference between success and failure in almost any organization. Because even though women today comprise a significant portion of middle-level managers and professionals globally, they typically don’t get the same chance as men to show their leadership talents.
Hurt Them, Hurt Yourself
Studies show that, to a significant degree within certain cultures, companies don’t consider the need to achieve leadership diversity to be a priority. Failure to have women holding at least 30% of senior posts in business, government and elsewhere inevitably means they’re not taken seriously and lack influence on the organization’s decision making.
The debate over whether women or men are better at business leadership is an ancient one that can’t really be resolved. Rather than arguing for one over the other, we suggest the leadership qualities of men and women are complementary, particularly when it comes to setting high goals and an ability to inspire others to fulfill these goals.
Certainly, there are both physiological and hormonal differences, but the distinctions in the boardroom are WAY more nuanced than some might have you believe. An ability to see (and take advantage of) primarily female strengths is what leads to certain businesses or decision-making teams to be the most successful. Consider these strengths women typically bring to a conversation in greater reserves than do men:
- Greater motivation by the purpose of their work. Men, as a group, are more likely to be focused on compensation and job titles.
- An increased tendency to show emotions at work…and a willingness to be vulnerable.
- A probing intellect, asking more (and deeper) questions prior to making a decision. This improves opportunities for more consistently arriving at correct conclusions.
- They’re more risk averse.
- They’re typically better listeners.
- They’re more likely to invest in education and healthcare than men, leading to greater long-term work stability.
- There’s a much greater chance of holistically perceiving the benefits of a work-life balance.
Why Should You Care?
From marketing to engineering to finance, women bring a significantly different (and fresh) perspective to every discipline within any organization. And because they’re more likely to explore the reasons for a particular line of thinking before making a critical decision, they’re less likely to arrive at a “Ready. Fire. Aim.” strategy that many male-dominated organizations remain guilty of.
It’s the latter type of organization that is more likely to lure and retain women long-term, seeing them as an asset rather than merely an easily replaced cog in a wheel.
Rising Or Falling On Their Own
Companies truly wanting more women leaders provide opportunities for women to succeed…and to fail…just as their male employees do. Taking a patriarchal attitude of “If she fails, it will be a disaster for all women,” is, at best, a specious argument that invariably ends up being an excuse for merely not promoting a woman into a particular position.
Of course nobody is perfect, regardless of gender. But the smartest organizations are recognizing that talent and ability has nothing to do with gender, and a leader’s contribution to the bottom line is determined strictly by what’s between his or her ears…and no place else!