Women make great leaders, yet they remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America. According to Women in the Workplace, produced by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, a wide range of diversity policies and programs hasn’t moved the needle. We need to try something new.
Women are starting strong, but for numerous reasons get derailed along the way. Fast Company cites a 2013 Pew Research Center study, which shows, that not only do millennial women earn degrees at higher rates than men and are more likely to work in managerial roles, they also enter the workforce at near pay parity. Yet women are getting left behind. This results in far too few women sitting at decision-making tables, and until that changes, our organizations and institutions will fail to benefit from the leadership value women bring.
Diversity Benefits Everyone
First of all, most men support gender equality at work. The researchers found that some 70% of men believe gender diversity is important, but most do not recognize the shortage of women in leadership positions. Only 12% believe women have fewer opportunities than men at work. That’s a serious disconnect. When more women lead, company performance improves. Innovative, sharp, savvy firms with more women in top management realize more profits and companies with more gender diversity have more revenue, customers, and market share.
Broaden The Concept of Leadership
Let’s face it, today’s workplace culture often associates stereotypically masculine attributes with success. The old “command and control” leadership squelches engagement and innovation with its harsh, demeaning and fear-based approach. Smart companies now prize the “soft skills” that benefit both men and women – with an emphasis on emotional intelligence, empathy, inclusion, big picture thinking, and flexibility, as well as the ability to build strong relationships and put others at ease. If we can reimagine leadership as a more collaborative, supportive vocation, those qualities won’t appear so gender-based in the first place. And that, hopefully, can start making senior positions appealing and accessible to a much more diverse pool of talent.
Recognize The Skills Leading Women Bring To The Table
While there is a growing awareness of what women bring to the workplace in terms of the bottom-line, Fortune.com writes that it’s actually a new model of leadership that helps them accomplish this. Women are influencing a wide range of groups over which they have no direct authority. While several men on the list have mastered the skill, all of the women in their World’s Greatest Leaders ranking have done it. And that’s no surprise. Women are wonderful when it comes to empathy. They value reciprocal relationships and even at a young age, tend to be cooperative and collaborative and show concern for fairness. In world that favors leadership based on skills of personal interaction rather than on authority, women have a head start.
When we all realize that parity not only matters, but also benefits everyone, we will be on our way to achieving it in the workplace. We must all work together and take active steps to create opportunity for both male and female leadership styles. When we support and recognize the full potential of men and women, it is a sure road to equality. The workplace is changing rapidly, as is the world. As women step into their own power, and reach out to help other women, the status quo will inevitably change, and we will create room at the table for a perfect balance of women and men.