The fact that there are more CEOs named Andrew than the total number of women CEOs heading up the 200 most significant companies in the country is symptomatic of the significant problem we have with gender inequality in corporate Australia.
To put this issue into perspective for organisations, in 2015 McKinsey research estimated that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality.
Despite this massive opportunity, the latest McKinsey Women in the Workplace report reveals only modest gains have been made over the past 8 years where women are still dramatically underrepresented, at all levels but especially in leadership roles, in the workplace.
We acknowledge that gender equality is a complex issue that requires a combination of structural, organisational, individual and cultural changes to take place.
Why do we need more women in leadership roles? And how exactly can organisations encourage and support more females to lead?
In this article, we will look at the reasons organisations need to work hard to get more women in leadership roles, and our tips to empower upcoming and current female leaders on your team.
Reason #1. Female leaders bring fresh perspectives (and boost profits).
A wealth of research shows that gender diversity is key when it comes to fostering innovation. Different perspectives lead to better decision-making, and companies with more diverse employees tend to outperform those with less diversity.
When women become leaders, they bring unique strengths, new perspectives, and diversity to the companies they work for. This results in more successful solutions. Women are able to see minor details and have a greater sense of awareness, which leads to better decision-making.
This boost in innovation from more female leadership also has an impact on the bottom line. Gallup research found that gender diverse businesses had up to 19% higher profits than less diverse businesses.
Reason #2. Women are more empathetic leaders.
The latest research out of the University of Cambridge shows that women are better at empathising with people than men. Across 36 countries, women scored significantly higher in their cognitive empathy scores than men.
We know empathetic leadership is crucial for building connections, driving employee engagement, influencing others, being an effective communicator and driving better business outcomes.
As women tend to exhibit higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence compared to men, they can make highly effective leaders.
Reason #3. Women make amazing mentors.
This study found that two-thirds of survey respondents believe it is especially important for women starting their careers to have women in leadership positions as role models. While 8 out of 10 respondents believe that not having women in leadership positions as role models fails to inspire women and has contributed to preventing women from securing top leadership positions.
Having women in senior positions acting as role models and mentors is so important for nurturing, motivating and inspiring the next generation of female leaders and creating inclusive workplaces. Strong empathy, communication and networking skills allow women mentors to understand their mentee’s unique set of challenges, provide feedback and coaching, tap into their professional network and use their influence to raise them up.
Reason #4. Women are excellent leaders.
A Harvard Business Review study that analysed thousands of 360-degree reviews, found women outscored men on 17 of the 19 capabilities that differentiate excellent leaders from average or poor ones. Women excel in taking initiative, acting with resilience, practising self-development, driving results and having high levels of integrity and honesty.
What organisation wouldn’t want to support and promote employees with such valuable skills and competencies? The HBR study concluded that women make highly competent leaders but what was holding them back is not a lack of capability but a lack of opportunities.
So organisations must ensure their female team members have access to the same opportunities for career advancement and leadership as their male counterparts. Leaders need to provide equal access to training and development programs, and equal consideration for any promotions and leadership roles.
How to empower women to occupy leadership roles
There are several ways to nurture and empower women to take on and thrive in leadership roles in your company, including:
- Creating a culture of inclusion: Create a culture that is welcoming and inclusive for women, where they feel valued and supported. This requires leadership buy-in, making a psychologically safe environment and open and effective communication. Explore our diversity and inclusion training for leadership teams or your whole team.
- Flexible work arrangements: Companies that want to support work life balance for their employees can implement flexible work policies, such as flexible hours, remote work and job sharing. This can help to particularly support women, who may have additional caregiving responsibilities or other commitments outside of work.
- Mentoring and sponsorship: A powerful way to retain and advance female leaders is by providing sponsorship and mentorship opportunities from existing organisational leaders. Sponsorship provides women with the professional guidance, support, and access to resources, advocacy and networks they need to advance in their careers. While mentorship, helps women build confidence and relationships with experienced professionals who can offer advice, insights and guidance.
- Women’s leadership development: Leadership training is vital for women who want to progress in their careers and organisations that need to build a pipeline of diverse talent. The goal of these programs is to give women the professional development skills and capabilities they need to succeed in leadership roles. The many benefits of women’s leadership development programs your organisation stands to gain are boosted innovation and profitability, the ability to attract and retain the best talent, and the creation of a more inclusive workplace.
With women being such a valuable asset to any organisation, it is vital to ensure that they feel empowered, not only on an individual level but also in their role as leaders in the workplace.
Hopefully, this article has helped demystify the reasons why your organisation needs more women in leadership roles, and has provided you with some tips to help empower your female colleagues.