Sales Coaching Blog

Woman Power Part 1: Research Says Women Leaders Add Something Extra

Posted by Kristi Shoemaker

February 27, 2012

Women leaders are transforming the face of business and society, moving into leadership roles as business owners and corporation executives. The business case for gender diversity iswomen in leadership tangible and straightforward, and it is a platform that should resonate with all executives.  This series of research was published by by Bizshifts-Trends which is company that provides a framework for thinking about business change, process for deployment, and methods for sustaining change.  A study titled “The Bottom Line: Connecting Corporate Performance and Gender Diversity” by Catalyst, examined 353 Fortune 500 companies and proved the correlation between increased gender diversity at the highest levels and improved financial performance. The findings assert that “the group of companies with the highest representation of women on their top management teams experienced better financial performance than the group of companies with the lowest women’s representation”, with a 35.1% higher ‘Return on Equity’ (ROE) and 34% higher ‘Total Return to Shareholders’ (TRS).

Here is a related article titled "The Unique Qualities of Women Leadership Styles"

Women In Leadership Roles

Another study reported in the Harvard Business Review; 215 Fortune 500 firms were evaluated for their support of women executives and respective profitability. The results of this survey demonstrated that the Fortune 500 companies with a higher number of women executives outperformed the median firms in their industry. Other studies have found a correlation between gender diverse boards of directors, particularly boards with female directors, and improved performance, including higher revenues. Women currently earn more than one half of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the U.S. (57.3% and 58.5%, respectively), nearly one half of all doctorates and law degrees (44.9% and 47.3%, respectively), and comprise about one half of the U.S. paid labor force (46.5%).  However, women are under-represented in business leadership throughout the U.S. Women hold only less than 20% of board seats for U.S. Fortune 500 companies. Women are also under-represented in executive positions, representing less than 20% of Fortune 500 executives. These statistics suggest that although women are viewed as an important factor in an organization’s success, their limited advancement into executive and director roles indicates that barriers continue to exist.

Women's Leadership Style

In the report “Women and the Paradox of Power” by Dr. Anne Perschel and Jane Perdue write: Many women relate to power in ways that prevent them from attaining senior level positions, be it lack of confidence; cultural conditioning; or simply not understanding what power is. In comparison, interviews with women in senor business leadership roles at the highest levels of corporations, reveal that they have a different understanding of power and use different approaches to gain more of it. They then use their power and influence to make important changes to the culture and to leadership practices. Reshaping a male-dominated business culture, changing the ratio of women to men, and thereby improving bottom line results; requires a very specific set of actions by those currently in leadership positions, as well as by women themselves. The authors identify the key issues and solutions:

  • Know power and be powerful: Sixty-one percent of survey participants hold mistaken views about how to advance their power (and themselves). The authors emphasize that women must study power, understand power, and use their power to change the culture of business.
  • Ditch Cinderella: Over sixty percent of the participants preferred passive approaches to gaining power, opting to be granted access, rather than actively taking it. Women cannot passively wait on the business sidelines, hoping business culture will change and hand them the most powerful decision-making positions.
  • Show up. Stand Up. Voice Up: Women comprising nearly forty-seven percent of the entire workforce, holding forty percent of all management jobs, and earning sixty-one percent of all master’s degrees, they are uniquely positioned to work together and with interested men to dismantle legacy organizational barriers and stereotypes.
  • Forge strategic connections: Relationships are the currency of the workplace, yet sixty-seven percent of the women in this study are not taking charge of building their networks.
  • Unstick their thinking: Thirty-eight percent of participants opted for being well-liked rather than powerful. The authors contend this is an area where some women need to re-order their preferences and adopt both.

Women Leaders

In the report “Global Gender Gap Report” by ‘The World Economic Forum’ measured the performance of 134 countries on gender-equality by looking at gender disparities in access to resources and opportunity over-time along economic, political, education, and health-based indicators. Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden maintain top rankings closing over 80% of their gender gaps, and the U.S., Mali, Pakistan, Chad, and Yemen taking the lowest rankings with around 50% of their gender-gaps yet to close. New quota requirements in Europe are placing more women at key leadership levels in European companies; reports ‘Corporate Women Directors International’ (CWDI), a non-profit research organization on women directors. In its latest report, CWDI examines the gender-diversity on corporate boards of Fortune Global 200 Companies. In Europe; Norway, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy and Belgium currently uphold government-issued quotas mandating the number of seats reserved for women on corporate boards. France and Italy are showing strong gains in women’s boardroom representation with women directors comprising 20.1% and 9.2% of seats on corporate boards, respectively.

In part two of this series on "Women In Leadership", we wills share more research findings on this topic.

To develop your own leadership and coaching skills, attend the Sales Coaching and Leadership Summit, April 10-12 at the Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin TX. Learn why executives must evolve into a collaborative leadership style if they expect their sales teams to flourish.

Women in leadership conference

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