In recent years, the lack of gender diversity in organizations and fortune 1000 companies has been a hot topic as many women and men embrace the idea of more female leaders in organizations and leading teams in the workplace. Old barriers are still creating environments where the power of women’s leadership style is not recognized. The future is fortunately very bright for female leaders because there has been a lot of progress in how women support each other and hold one another accountable for ensuring diversity in the leadership sphere. Here we elucidate some of the ways in which women’s leadership can reform and compliment old leadership trends and how women can be supported in these important leadership positions.
Why do we need women in leadership roles?
1) Leadership Style
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women held 50.04% of American jobs, up from 49.7 a year ago. It’s becoming more and more apparent that women have many strengths that are often overlooked or are less valued in today’s society. Because women have a very different leadership style than their counterparts, leading with compassion, quiet strength, and kindness, women are often seen as too soft, and unstructured to compete in the dog-eat-dog world of business. Women leaders are often overlooked and perceived as lacking the competitive grit necessary to WIN.
But society is rapidly changing and nowhere more rapidly in the world of business. With COVID, #metoo & #timesup corporations are being held to the fire… and those inflicted with the innovative spirit of sustainability and the impact economy are looking to women leaders to create cultures of authentic accountability.
Women in the workplace are often team-oriented, focusing on the health of the whole organization and its impact on employees and community rather than gaining success only for themselves. Women simply don’t think about eliminating others who are on their way to the top – they’re too preoccupied with creating emotional connections that empower better decision-making. However… it’s these qualities that make women ideal and valuable in leadership positions that men simply don’t value or possess.
2) Gender Diversity
Women leaders dramatically enhance the well-being (and profitability) of any company with their unique style of leadership. When combined with well-established best practices and traditional leadership models, corporations are poised to usher in an entirely new business model (Think Conscious Capitalism). This gender diversity of opinions, ideas, and strategy completely shift a company from a cut-throat, toxic environment of stress and conflict (and frequent employee turnover) to a workplace where both men and women look forward to getting up in the morning and doing their best work.
3) Understanding of Women’s Needs
Since most workplaces employ a great number of female workers, women in leading positions can help create more ideal working conditions for women since they know what they need to feel satisfied at work. They can also vouch for women’s needs such as adequate maternity leave and enough personal days. Female leaders can also make sure that the work environment is enriched with adequate facilities, a pleasant aesthetic environment, quality childcare, a flatter hierarchy in offices, and more collaborative nature of work.
Another important aspect of women becoming leaders in the male-dominated world of business is that they can make sure that other women are well-represented in workplaces and that they are paid in comparison to men based on their performance. Money seems to be less important for women if the environment they are working for helps them maintain a good life/work balance where they can. be available and present with their family while still very focused on career success. Knowing this, women in leadership positions can inspire their teams accordingly so that performance can be enhanced while deep personal needs are met. This holistic approach, indicative of women leaders, literally pays dividends in the form of a thriving corporate culture that consistently results in increased productivity and revenue generation.
4) Support for Other Women
The visibility of women in authoritative and influential positions is extremely important for younger women who are beginning to enter the workforce. If women consistently see an absence of other strong, capable, and influential women in fields that they would like to pursue, their unconscious beliefs could continue to be that there are no good opportunities and support for them in their desired career paths.
Women leaders can also serve as mentors to help up-and-coming women leaders in their particular field get the encouragement, connections, and experience they need to progress in their careers. Knowing that another woman who has gone through the same challenges was able to succeed and that she is free to give her advice, can turn a woman who is on a fence about pursuing a career in male-dominated industries, into a powerful leader herself.
What does it mean to be a woman in leadership?
Women in leadership positions face a lot of responsibility that they need to carry out in the most professional, fair, and honest way. Placing themselves in such positions, women are challenged to use all of their skills and talents to make sure they are making sound and appropriate decisions, especially in the face of very difficult challenges that occur in many companies. Exercising responsibility and making tough decisions not only allows women to see their own power and wisdom but also to show others that women are capable of leading effectively.
Integrity is one of the most important qualities a leader can possess. In the days before corporate interest and business politics, leaders were elected because of their track record of sound decisions and qualities which demonstrate their trustworthiness and integrity. These days, we have very little evidence and examples of integrity in the behavior of our leader. As women begin to prominently show the amount of responsibility they can take on successfully, leading with fairness and wisdom, people around them will notice it and will elect them to make other important decisions. These women will then have the experience and the reputation to teach others how to cultivate these important skills.
3) Transformation of Old Structures
Due to a very structured system where rules were made by men, it was hard for women to find themselves in powerful, integrity-driven positions. With time, women learned to play by the rules men invented to finally break through the barriers that have kept them back from leadership for centuries. The new challenge for women in leadership positions today is to have confidence in their own ideas through decades of valuable experience. As we have seen, the old structures have worked in very limiting ways and it is time for them to be updated to reflect the rising consciousness of humanity.
How can today’s women leaders transform the landscape of how the world is structured? Women in leadership positions can finally show that vulnerability, empathy, and kindness are an asset rather than a weakness. This confidence about the way they lead can then start to be reflected in the society at large. Leading from the heart can be the new standard if women who are currently in leadership positions can inspire the younger generation to do things their way, with conviction and confidence.
How can women prove to the world that they are capable leaders while staying true to themselves and exhibiting vulnerability and integrity? Only through giving each other support and opportunities to shine in roles of tremendous responsibility can women show what they are made of and gain authority in peoples’ eyes who are depending on them. More than ever, women are in the position to uphold principles of integrity over money and status and these values will bring them to the forefront of all the fields currently dominated by greed and misguided power. Authority is built by showing strength and conviction in actions of integrity over time without thinking of profit, status, or money. Only time will show what women are capable of and they will be recognized for it, gaining more authority in leadership positions.
5) Carrying out Promises
In many companies, schools, and other institutions, we see leaders that only talk about important issues to get elected or are chosen for a certain position but fail to do anything about pressing issues while they are in office. Even though women have so much more at stake for standing up for their way of doing things, it is important for them to demonstrate that this can and should be done so that promises to improve the lives of people will be carried out, even if the final outcome isn’t perfect or one that was expected. Younger women are looking from the sidelines and taking notes on how they should lead. This is the perfect opportunity for them to see that strength and taking smart risks are important qualities and are essential for their ability to carry out promises.
6) Role Model
The only way we can change the current paradigm is for young women to see responsibility, integrity, confidence, authority, and trustworthiness reflected out there in the world in women who are already in powerful positions. Powerful women with a history of caring for people that they are leading and making hard decisions for them are necessary role models in this society. But strength is not the only or even the most important quality these women in leadership should allow themselves to show – gentleness and vulnerability, which aren’t often accepted as leadership behaviors, can be some of the most powerful and transformational qualities younger leadership candidates can see.
What are the main challenges for female leaders?
1) Self Belief/Confidence
The lack of women role models in leadership positions that embody integrity and confidence is very apparent in our world today. How can young women even envision thriving in leadership roles, let alone feel confident to go for such a position? It is difficult for women who have leadership talent and a desire for developing their leadership skills to identify others who can help them and find the courage to approach them. If these future leaders do receive some support and mentorship, there is still a long road in front of them, with many berries set up to “weed out” women whose confidence wavers in such high-pressure situations.
The lack of confidence in pursuing leadership roles also stems from not having enough opportunities to exercise leadership skills in the real world. Often, even if there are open positions for women and they are actively recruited, environments in many companies and institutions can be so cut-throat that, without mentorship and support, talented women can be turned off from wanting to be leaders. It is therefore important to start creating welcoming environments in these workplaces that will be supportive of women that are just starting their career. A nurturing, as well as rigorous environment and training, are necessary if women are to have a fair chance in high-position leadership roles.
For women to gain confidence, they need to have experience in real-world challenging situations that allow them to exercise their decision-making abilities and their people skills. This means that they have to encounter opportunities where they can make decisions and mistakes without dire consequences. These opportunities can be in the form of leadership camps, apprenticeships, booth camps, workshops, or intensives. However, many of these programs are yet to be realized.
How do we encourage women in leadership?
1) Opportunities through School Programs
One of the best ways that young women can get the experience they need to thrive in leadership positions is through programs in high school or even junior high school. The earlier they are able to see, practice, and demonstrate their leadership abilities, the better their confidence in themselves and their prospect for the future.
2) More Visibility of Women in Leadership
The media is guilty of portraying women in powerful leadership roles as solely ruthless, mean, and heartless individuals. Unfortunately, these negative images are not motivating for young women and only detract from what is a just, effective, and trustworthy leader. It is important for young women to see female leaders leading from the heart, not from a place of crushing everyone in their path so they can remain on top. Successful women who are inspiring leaders can go to junior highs and high schools to tell their stories and encourage others to stay true to themselves while still desiring to be leaders. It would also be of great value if these women wrote articles and books about their experiences so that they could be leadership role models without having to directly interact with young women who are looking up to them.
Why have a women’s leadership program?
For young women looking to gain leadership skills, the opportunity to feel seen, supported, nurtured, and understood is an important aspect of their development. Communities, where seasoned woman leaders and their less-experienced leadership candidates can get together and talk about self-care, training opportunities, connections, and life in general, is essential if these young women are to feel confident enough to pursue leadership positions in the future. Receiving feedback, be it through sharing concerns, difficulties, or progress over a cup of coffee or having female leaders look over a speech or a presentation can be one of the most powerful steps in the development of future female leaders.
Other than offering opportunities for networking and a sense of community, leadership programs can also offer development workshops and other opportunities for real-world leadership experience. For instance, the experienced women leaders could organize mock situations where their students could play out important situations in a safe, low-risk environment. These opportunities are essential so that when leaders-in-training are presented with these difficult situations later in their careers, they are prepared to take on whatever challenges come their way.
3) Funding and Resources
In addition to hands-on training, women’s leadership programs tend to be well-funded and provide all the resources needed to help future leaders on their journey. Be it funding for public speaking classes or transportation to valuable conferences, these programs could help secure a bright future for many women who otherwise would not be able to afford it.
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