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5 Reasons To Value Female Leadership (And Why We Need To Redefine It)

5 Reasons To Value Female Leadership (And Why We Need To Redefine It)

An ecosystem requires diversity to thrive, and, likewise, by increasing diversity and inclusion in the workforce, we create a richer environment that offers increased growth and evolution.

For more than a century, the world has benefitted from the leadership strengths that men offer, but it’s time for a paradigm shift. Our needs have evolved and our leadership needs to evolve too.

Whilst multiple studies show that 60 per cent of leadership skills are carried out equally well by men and women, women outperform men for some of the remaining 40 per cent. We need to tap into these leadership skills, because unless our current male leaders gain direct exposure to the benefits of working with women at every level (and vice versa, more on this shortly), they will never be able to learn from each other. 

Why diversity matters

Anthropologists tell us that humans are the most successful mammals because we have an ability to be social and exchange ideas. If you give a problem to a mixed group of men and women, there is potential for a greater number of solutions than if you gave the same problem to a group that solely consisted of either men or women. It is the combination that creates a broad perspective and fuels progress.

Statistics show us that companies where women occupy ten per cent or more of the board outperform those where women occupy less than ten per cent. Whilst there is plenty of compelling evidence to show that organisations benefit from an increased number of female employees, there’s been very little shift in the number of women entering the workforce or progressing to senior positions.

I recently presented at an event where clients from diverse industries, including legal, pharmaceutical, defence and fast-moving consumer goods, told me that they employ an equal number of men and women at graduate level, but that might dwindle to 55 and 45 per cent, respectively, at the next stage; and at middle management, men hold 70 per cent of the senior roles.

Increasing female representation remains a priority 

There’s a strong business case around the benefits of female leadership and increasing the volume of female employees. These include:

-1- Increased diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

Women are twice as likely to invest time on DEI work that lies outside their job responsibilities. In comparison to men, they’re more likely to adopt an allyship approach and mentor ‘minority’ employees. This opens the way to greater diversity in the future.

-2- Employees feel more supported

Employees who have female managers are more likely to say that they feel helped or supported by them. Check out our earlier blog 2 Female Superpowers That Will Change Your Business For The Better.

-3- Better working relationships

A study has shown that men tend to focus on facts whilst women focus more on building rapport and strengthening a business relationship. If you focus on the relationship, you create a bond which helps the other person trust you; over time, this might lead to new business or an increased willingness to work in collaboration.

-4- Women drive the economy

According to a Nielsen study, 89 per cent of women across the world reported controlling or sharing daily shopping needs, compared to only 41 per cent of men. If women are the primary decision-makers when it comes to purchasing, then it makes sense to have more of them on your side offering innovative and creative ideas and solutions.

-5- Financial gain

Companies in which women held 20 per cent or more of the management roles generated two per cent higher profit margins than companies in which women held 15 per cent or less. This is further evidenced by the fact that women have a positive impact on the financial results at all levels of business (not just when they’re employed at a senior level).

The benefits of increasing your female talent pipeline are endless, but it’s not just gender diversity we need to increase.

Why does leadership need to evolve?

The last few years (accelerated by the pandemic) have welcomed increased awareness around what makes a company successful. There’s less of a focus on the bottom line, and more attention given to motivating and nurturing the work culture (which, of course, also supports a healthier bottom line!).

It’s time to create the space for leaders (irrespective of gender identity) to develop a leadership style that is true to them and their values. 

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”

The benefits of redefining leadership

We know that both women and men are capable of being compassionate, empathetic, assertive and strong, but studies show that women innately bring the first two qualities (see earlier blog). It’s time to increase their representation to the benefit of all.

As human beings, we look up to leaders who are consistent and authentic in their approach and who inspire others to bring more of who they are to their role. We’d greatly benefit from broadening our definition of what a good leader is, and broadening the metrics around how we measure their success.

Jacinda Ardern summed it up perfectly when she said: “It takes courage and strength to be empathetic, and I’m very proudly an empathetic and compassionate leader. I am trying to chart a different path, and that will attract criticism, but I can only be true to myself and the form of leadership I believe in.”

I hope this blog has supported you to recognise the vast benefits of increasing female representation at all levels in the workforce. An increase in diversity, whether that’s in leadership or personality types, will help create a workforce that is diverse, equitable and inclusive, which leads to increased profit and productivity as well as happier people!

What more do you think can be done to recruit more women into the workforce and senior leadership positions, and retain them? What leadership changes and challenges are attracting your attention? Get in touch and share your ideas, and remember that we’re here to support you to increase your female talent pipeline; or if you’re a female employee, we’ll help you to break the glass ceiling and reach your career aspirations.

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New Zealand’s Prime Minister quotes sourced from BrainyQuote and The Female Lead on Twitter.