As a champion for gender equality, I’ve seen firsthand how gender perceptions affect the careers of women and their ability to command a ‘seat at the table’. Recently a Cornell HR Review article stated that, “women now make up over half of the current workforce . . . yet there is stagnant growth of women in some positions and the demographic makeup of top leadership remains largely unchanged. It is hard for women to enter the upper echelons of the workplace . . . just 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs and less than 15% of corporate executives at top companies worldwide are female. Just over 5% of executive management women hold positions in Fortune 500 companies. A full 75% of Fortune 500 companies report no women as top earners. Organizations will have a unique opportunity in the next ten years to reconcile this discrepancy between women’s apparent advancement and the reality of an entrenched “glass ceiling.”
Advancement for women often times has little to do with skill; and more to do with perception. In the workplace, assertive women are often considered too aggressive or too passive – a struggle to find the ‘sweet spot’ between exuding power without pretense ensues. The tenets of transformational leadership – empowerment, leaning in, and collaboration are starting to challenge common misperceptions about women exhibiting traditionally male associated traits (e.g. Ambition, Competency). Transformational leadership suggests that there are innate strengths women possess that give them a competitive advantage as leaders.
Women Are a Commodity to Business Results
According to Gallup, “The value of having women leaders is not just about understanding women’s needs. When you’re playing to a 12.45 trillion-pound market, employing women in leadership roles who understand female consumers’ needs is no longer just a nice thing to do to — it’s essential.“
Women are Honest & Engaging Leaders
Women have an advantage when it comes to honesty, according to a Pew research study – 29% of all adults associate honesty more with women versus 3% who say honesty applies more to men. Even Gallup Research gives a nod to women in its study that revealed employees who work for women leaders are more engaged, on average, than those who work for their male counterparts.
Women are Overall More Effective Leaders
A Business Insider study about leadership effectiveness found women to be more effective than men over time. Women habitually seek feedback and take action to improve; conversely, men are less inclined to seek this type of input as they age. The reality is gender- related leadership styles are highly overlapping; the differences are small. To that point, gone are the days where women are waiting with glass slipper in hand for a prince to fulfill their dreams. Today’s women leaders are demanding room at the table and shattering glass ceilings in the heel of their choice.
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