Over the last few decades we have made progress when it comes to equality, although the change is sketchy and it seems in stasis or decline (McKInsey/Lean in 2018). There are more women in the workforce than ever before, yet there remains a dearth of women in boardrooms. The Hampton-Alexander Review of women in leadership positions in the FTSE 350 paints a grim picture, showing that while as of 2018 the number of all-male boardrooms in the FTSE 350 was down to just five, to hit the government's 2020 targets for 33% female boardrooms, 50 percent of future appointments would need to be female.
Despite the push for greater gender diversity on boards, organisations continue to lag behind in female executive representation. This is tough to understand when there are so many compelling reasons to appoint more women into leadership positions. Here are 3 of the most pressing:
1. Women are proactive when it comes to self-development
According to Forbes, women are proactive about continuing personal development (CPD) even as they advance in their careers. While both men and women are eager to learn at a younger age, it appears that men's interest in CPD falls off as they get older and become more entrenched in their careers. Meanwhile, women are more committed to self-improvement. Perhaps this is down to the challenges they face proving themselves in leadership positions? Whatever the motivation, it is hard to deny that someone who demonstrates an unwavering dedication to learning and success would be a valuable asset to the team.
2. Diversity brings a fresh perspective
Gender diversity means the organisation has a range of talents, skills and experiences to draw upon. An MIT study showed that companies that are more diverse tend to be more profitable than offices that are all male or all female. It revealed that social capital is higher when a team is more homogenous, and performance better when the team is more diverse.
3. Female communication styles can be good for morale
More women possess an innate ability to listen with empathy, they tend to use open communication more often than men and are less likely to interrupt others. These non-authoritative communication styles are more likely to build cohesion. Women typically score highly on tests of emotional intelligence that relate to teamwork and understanding non-verbal cues. This means they are excellent at managing and preventing conflict. Women are great at story-telling, they possess superior listening skills and they are more willing to be vulnerable. Listening is the most important leadership skill, how can leaders manage customers and teams if they are not experts at listening?
Women must be given more opportunities to lead. The more women we encourage to step into leadership roles, the more other women will be encouraged to climb higher up the corporate ladder. Organisations must do more to ensure that women are receiving the right opportunities that will lead to their professional advancement.
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