Study Confirms Women in Leadership Benefit Business
Right Management, a career management company, recently published a report which revealed that a large number of working women interested in career advancement lack access to sufficient professional support systems. Entitled “When Women Lead Businesses Do Better,” the study indicates that when women are unable to identify viable female candidates to fulfill their needs as peers, advisors, and confidantes, they regularly exit corporate positions in favor of entrepreneurship. Findings suggest that one-third of all new jobs created in the US will be born from women-owned companies.
Although there is clear and immutable value in nurturing the community of female entrepreneurs, some major drivers for its growth, namely the ubiquity of male-centric corporate culture, merit significant intervention. To accomplish this end, several female leaders of industry have volunteered their invaluable insight. Their advice ranges from tips to climbing the corporate ladder to ways to demolish it.
Mara Swan, the Executive Vice President of Global Strategy and Talent at ManpowerGroup, posits that the most important habit a woman in the workplace need to build is developing and defending a strong sense of self. Having previously held senior roles at companies like Miller and Coors, she is very familiar with the challenges of doing so in a male-dominated industry. Remaining unwavering in her comfort with her identity as a woman and assertively communicating that she would not “dress like a man” or “sit at the bar and drink 20 beers” just to fit in earned the respect of colleagues. When issues did arise, she found humor could be a useful tool for re-establishing agency. If a man in the room paraphrased her words without giving due credit, speaking up with a tastefully sarcastic, “thank you so much for restating what I just said” held her co-workers accountable for their microaggressions.
The best companies are also especially adept at identifying potential and fairly valuing it against pure experience. Businesses need to actively manage their employee pipeline and give future leaders the skills they need to thrive in senior positions. A major step in bridging longstanding, gender-based gaps in employment is to recognize them for what they are and be proactive in their elimination be creating opportunities to succeed. Tonit Calaway, a Vice President with Harley-Davidson, recalls that when a new CEO was fired from an external pool of applicants, he heard about her work and had the courage to promote her. Carole Watkins, the Chief HR Officer at Cardinal Health, benefitted from a similar leap of faith by a superior. Many managers fear that if they hire a candidate who then fails, it will reflect poorly on them, but this worry cripples their ability to recognize and reward possibly inexperienced but superbly promising talent.
It is incredibly important that all business leaders acknowledge both the prevalence and dangers of unconscious biases. Issues like maternity leave and age-old stereotypes regarding gender roles in our society may require vigilance, but it is a small price to pay for the contribution women can, and do, make to the workplace every day.