Women & Leadership: Actions to Take Now
Diversity among leadership has been a focal point in recent years and considerably in the last year. We have learned that organizations with diverse teams tend to outperform their more homogenous counterparts. Why? Diverse teams bring different perspectives and life experiences, new ways of thinking, and generally challenge each member to step out of their comfort zone. When this happens, creativity flourishes – not to mention builds a culture of inclusion. And, exponential increases take place in customer acquisition and retention, revenue, profit and growth.
However, when comparing women and men, the leadership gap still very much exists. Women have made great strides getting a seat at the table and the numbers are showing signs that our organizations are working to build more gender diverseleadership among their ranks. Here are some good news stats:
- Since 2015, the number of women in senior leadership has grown – particularly in the C-suite where the representation of women has increased from 17% to 21%.
- The percentage of female CEOs worldwide has increased over the last decade. At the end of 2019, 29% of senior management roles were filled by women (globally).
- In 2019, 33 females had been appointed in CEO positions (an increase from 4.8% in 2018 to 6.6% in 2019).
- 31% of senior roles are held by women in the US.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, research revealed that overall leadership effectiveness ratings comparing men and women leaders revealed women were rated as more effective leaders during the global crisis compared to their male counterparts.
Yet, there is still much work to be done. By now we all know the dismal stats:
- Only 5% of CEOS of major corporations in the US are women.
- Female CEOs are 45% more likely to be fired than male CEOs – regardless of company performance.
- In 2019, only 22% of all available CEO positions were refilled by women – compared to 78% of CEO replacements that were male.
- Men interrupt 33% more often when speaking with women than when they spoke with another man. Over the course of a 3-minute conversation, men interrupted women 2.1 times.
- No matter the leadership level, women are still disproportionately interrupted, talked over, and have their ideas unacknowledged and picked up by their male colleagues without credit for the original idea.
What are we going to do about this? As a leader, how can you address the gender leadership gap in your day-to-day actions? How can you create an inclusive culture that not only embraces the talents women bring, but also rewards those talents equally? Consider these strategies as you work to build a diverse, inclusive leadership team in which women thrive:
Mentor for Executive Prescence
The power of executive presence can make or break a leader. There are some skills that transcend beyond male vs female (although our society still views stereotypical male characteristics as the model for leadership). When designing leadership development programs for women, focus on executive presence. Mentoring women on the fundamentals of executive presence can help them find their voice – one that exudes composure, connection, charisma, confidence, credibility, clarity, and conciseness.
All You Need is Little (Inclusive) Nudge
Our unconscious bias steers our decision making – often without us realizing it. When it comes to brainstorming sessions, often the loudest voice in the room takes the floor – the extroverts, and usually the men. At your next meeting, before you give your opinion (which can invoke conformity) or ask others to ‘speak up’ (which in a group setting disadvantages the introverts), have attendees write down their ideas or solutions prior to the meeting and share as group. This will help to mitigate the issue of women being interrupted or having their ideas ‘stolen’ by male team members. This simple strategy builds a level playing field. For more ideas on how to create an inclusive environment that promotes diversity in thought, check out Inclusion Nudges (inclusion-nudges.org).
“If they won’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Shirley Chisolm, first African American woman elected to US Congress
Take.Action.Now. Tell the men to stop interrupting and taking credit for a women’s idea. Look at your open roles from top to bottom in your organization and ensure your slate of candidates is more than equally women. In every meeting, mandate that at least one if not more women need to be present. Period.
As leaders of our organizations, people look to us for what is right, what is just. Working towards greater diversity in thought and representation at the top benefits every member of your organization and the bottom line – bolstering your company to heights of success than you never could have imagined.
Looking for guidance on helping women in your organization excel in leadership? Head on over to our website to learn more about our Developing Executive Presence – East Tenth Group. If your organization is looking for a new perspective, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.