Women in Leadership
Today Overperforming but Often Undervalued
Women have made great headway in today’s world.
However, equality not yet there. Women are not fully represented both in the boardroom and in senior leadership roles; female leaders are reflected in better financial outcomes.
Presence of women in corporate leadership positions may improve firm performance, reflecting either nondiscrimnating payoff or skill deiversiy increasing.
Women’s presence in corporate leadership is positively correlated with firm characteristics such as size as well as national characteristics such as girls’ math scores, the absence of discriminatory attitudes toward female executives, and the availability of paternal leave.
The results find no impact of board gender quotas on firm performance, but they suggest that the payoffs of policies that facilitate women rising through the corporate ranks more broadly could be significant.
Women in positions (S&P 500 companies):
CEO position 6%
Well complensated 10%
Board member 20%
Senior level managers 25%
Mid level managers/officers 36%
Total employees 44%
The gender disparity is significant.
No female board members (60%),
no female C-suite executive (50%), and
a female CEO (5%). CEOs listed only two women (best performing CEOs, 2016).
Margaret is a recent college graduate, having a competitive position with a well-known multinational company. Brimming with confidence, she hopes to someday reach management’s top ranks. She hits many of the early milestones to a C-suite role.
Few years later, she started doubting whether she can handle the path ahead. Although board has articulated a desire to see more women in top management, the requirements to make it there seem daunting—and lonely. Her direct supervisors have little advice for her, and there are few women in upper management to serve as examples.
Soon, Margaret begins to make other plans for her life—plans that no longer include the C-suite. There are many Margarets everywhere (60%).
Often male supervisors lack of meaningful dialogue. Male executives (67%) are hesitant to have one-on-one meetings with a more junior woman.
And even when dialogue occurs, gender differences may affect the nature and success of the conversations.
For example, women are often seen as more relational while men are often seen as more transactional.
Men are worse at building relationships with colleagues than women. Women are better at working with colleagues of the opposite gender – they need a different type of dialogue than male supervisors.
• Many women believe their supervisors don’t know where they are in their career aspirations, or what to say or do to support them
• Frustrated that their supervisors are “not encouraging or recognizing a desire to stay and passion for the work”.
• Receiving poorly delivered and often very negative feedback from supervisors:
they “lacked talent”; they’re “not cut out for” a role in top management; or simply that they “didn’t really want it.”
Difficult to pinpoint what factors are truly involved.
Societal issues and gender norms (women taking time off from their careers to raise children) are not the only elements at play.
Equally challenging is that many organizations fail to provide an environment where female leaders feel supported in their efforts to attain and succeed in senior leadership roles.
Two particular characteristics of workplace culture seem to support this analysis:
• Lack of support leading to decreases in women’s confidence
• Lack of attainable leadership career paths for women
While a variety of causes likely fuels the lack of women in leadership positions, many organizations have room to improve their support of women in the workforce in general.
Further, organizations should “step up their game” to support women who aspire to higher leadership positions by building cultures in which female leaders can succeed.
Breaking Gender Stereotypes:
Creating a New Culture
High-Impact Diversity and Inclusion
High-Impact Leadership both hint at a common theme:
Successful companies (as measured by superior business and talent outcomes) typically look beyond programs and instead address gender disparities by creating a culture and context of inclusion that fosters diversity and drives and encourages leadership opportunities for women.
Interestingly, companies with the strongest cultures of leadership growth also tend to demonstrate the highest degree of gender diversity—mature organizations report significantly higher levels of gender diversity than their less mature counterparts.
This leads to believe that their approach to creating a culture in which all employees can thrive also helps to foster an inclusive mind-set, which can in turn lead to increased gender parity.
Build women’s confidence and aspirations
Direct supervisor can shape an employee’s corporate experience;
they rather than HR or leadership teams fundamentally drive employee loyalty and engagement.
The correlation is significant – employees who are “promoters” of their companies (87%) give their direct supervisors high ratings.
Creating change in the conference room –
From the big decisions of whom to promote to the smaller choices about whom to champion in a team meeting, managers can shift employees’ standings in significant ways.
Managers are not just power makers; they also have the most direct access to employees and their personal goals and challenges.
Celebrate the balanced worker
Managers can strongly influence their employees’ view of the ideal worker, both in terms of their own behaviors and in what they outwardly reward and champion. They should consider sharing some of the specific ways in which they personally integrate their work and home priorities, and encourage employees to experiment with those and other tactics, e.g, blocking out certain hours each day to attend to family commitments or in some cases working from home.
Managers should also be hyper-aware of who is selected for the most visible roles to make sure opportunities are well distributed.
Finally, spotlight those who have excelled using alternative work models through such vehicles as newsletter articles, corporate videos and live events.
Invest time in getting to know employees better as individuals:
When a manager directly engages with an employee about their career goals and how to achieve them, they often see multiple benefits at once.
- Employee is likely to feel more valued and more ambitious as a result of being asked
- Manager has more fodder to consider in helping the employee develop and add value to the organization
Yet starting those conversations is not always easy.
- To elicit the necessary information
- What to do with it
Frontline managers can rethink their efforts in the conference room to catalyze the talent and ambition in their ranks that may otherwise go unappreciated.
At the corporate level, companies must support these efforts by setting expectations that all leaders are responsible for encouraging and developing female talent, and by providing the necessary training or policies to make those expectations a reality.
Organizational culture is the most important driver of leadership development, impacting business and talent outcomes more strongly than any other measured factor.
Specifically, organizational culture is critical for designing a climate of learning and mutual support. Values that employees hold dear and act upon throughout the organization are more powerful than formal training programs.
In short, leading companies not only achieve superior financial, business, and leadership outcomes, but also tend to have the highest levels of overall workforce diversity, most notably of women.
Suresh Shah, Pathfinders Enterprise