Ok, so you've heard this before and you will probably hear it many more times. There is a disparity when it comes to women and leadership positions. You would think that by now, this issue would be fading away. Sadly, we are approaching the end of 2018 and this is still a burden that professional women carry.
Women represent only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs yet research has shown that Fortune 500 companies with the most women board members outperform those companies whose boards are made up of mostly men. Go figure! There are a slew of books and lists that outline categories of attributes that make successful leaders. The funny thing is surveys and research have shown women to surpass men in many of these categories. So what is the problem? Why do many men still believe that women cannot successfully run a major corporation, or even a mid-sized one for that matter? Women are responsible for starting approximately 1800 new businesses per day, with an average of around 700, so we are very capable of running a company.
Working in corporate America for a little over 20 years, I have heard lots of female stereotypes like women are too emotional to hold leadership positions because all of their decisions will be made based on emotion, not rationale. I heard it also being said that women don't make the right career moves to position themselves for leadership positions (probably because they are blocked from these opportunities or passed over). Some women are actually passed over for promotions because someone has determined that she will not be able to perform well and commit a good amount of time to a position with a lot of responsibility because she has a family. Maybe she was actually accepted into the company's "leadership development program" (as a matter of record) but was never given an opportunity to "develop" after that. Oh, and I can't forget this one, "Women don't know how to 'play the game' " when it comes to landing leadership positions. When you have that kind of biased thought process running HR departments or making hiring decisions, it's no wonder women are still not getting the chance to prove their leadership ability at the rate that men do. I can think of a few men that I have worked with throughout my career that can be characterized the same way women have been. They actually fit the profile better than she does but will still have a better chance than a women of securing a leadership position. As reported in a study released in 2013, women make up 48% of the overall public sector workforce but represent only 20% of leadership roles in the sector. We have reached the year 2018 and not much has changed in 5 years. Nonetheless, women are undeniably instrumental in making major decisions, especially when it comes to purchases, and control $20 trillion of total consumer spending, according to a 2011 consumer research study. We have that kind of power but it's still not good enough for the board room. This picture is utterly distorted.
Whether admitted or not, women are very savvy and influential and when given an opportunity, can make a substantial impact on business. They have a natural ability to connect with people and create unity. Their nurturing persona allows them to solve problems better and bring about solutions that are logical and effective. Just because a woman may be more sensitive to the needs of her team does not weaken her leadership ability. Women think intuitively and creatively, which allows them the ability to be more innovative and prepared to make a positive impact on the bottom line of the company. No matter how powerful of a business you are and how big your organization is, your success will depend on those who work for you. If you don't know how to treat your people, they will eventually find a place of employment where they feel respected and valued. Women DO know how to play the game. It's just a different game than many men play. Women know that if they respect their team, inspire their team and demonstrate to them that they matter, they will be able to develop a culture where everyone is willing to work hard in their positions to help her reach her goals for the company as well as their own professional goals. People will work hard and go the extra mile for bosses who they like, respect and trust, regardless of their position. This mutual respect will allow her to be able to express specific and direct expectations to her team without coming off as a dictator and it will be received with openness and willingness. As with anything, she may not win everyone over but she can most likely win the majority. Women run and lead households and run and lead businesses of all sizes just as well. They keep their families together, businesses together, and churches too. They are the backbone of each of these entities. Their absence in any of them will be evident.
Time is well overdue to kick that ancient way of thinking to the curb. Women are working hard and running successful companies now more than ever. The number of women running technology-focused companies is creeping up as they stamp their brand in an industry that has long been a predominantly male profession. It is unfortunate that some women may never have an opportunity to prove themselves in corporate America. On the other hand, many women have taken matters into their own hands and created opportunities for themselves by branching out into entrepreneurship and starting their own companies. More angel investors are investing in women-owned businesses also, an indication that someone is taking notice. American women make up 45% of millionaires and the number continues to grow, but you still can't find too many of them holding the top spot at major corporations. It's a shame but a reality. Fortunately, there are some companies who recognize that women possess a unique skill set that will work in their favor and have made notable efforts to diversify the C-Suites with them. There is a glimmer of hope but there is still a very long way to go because inequality in pay is still a serious issue, even for those women who do make it to those highly coveted positions. For now, we will just have to keep hoping for the best. By no means am I bashing all male leaders because I know some outstanding men in leadership roles who have developed some strong women leaders. I am just speaking generally on a subject that is not brand new. It is what it is and it's not what it's not.
I would like to see Fortune 500 companies do more of these things:
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