The lists of powerful women are growing

Female leaders are emerging as collaborative, inclusive, and ready to make the tough calls and shake up the status quo. Power is not a gift given to anyone.  It’s a mountain to climb. And yet, when it’s in sight these women are grabbing it with both hands and using it to make change happen. Sisters are doing it for themselves, and long may it continue.

According to a number of studies done by Mercer in conjunction with companies like McKinsey and PWC, there are significant benefits to business and society with gender parity in the workplace.

  • 48% Higher operating margins generated by gender diverse management teams (McKinsey)
  • 85% of CEO’s whose organisations have a diversity and inclusiveness strategy say its enhanced performance (PwC)
  • $12 trillion added to global economy if gender equity is achieved (McKinsey)
  • Digital leaders are more 23% more likely to value diversity and inclusion as key to success (Oxford Economics)
  • The Diversity Inc. top 50 companies outperform stock exchange performance by an average of 25% (Diversity Inc.)

 

But what does it take for women to be recognised and given the same opportunities as men?

Every company that strives to close the gender equality gap must start from within.  Recruiting, promoting and developing in equal measures, training senior management to let go of subconscious biases and making equality a measure of performance for team managers. Research shows that planning is an integral step to success. Companies with formal diversity programmes and buy-in from top management are making the biggest strides as evident in EY, Google, Uber and Facebook. These giants have implemented extensive steps to ensure broader inclusion, research and encouragement to diversify.

 

So how do we ensure gender diversity is encouraged and practised in the workplace?

By taking action. Showing instead of telling, doing instead of preaching. Some companies might want to write reports and have quality PR materials around gender diversity, while others take action. Those actions range from organisational changes to providing for specific needs;

  • Implementing training programmes that encourage stepping away from the familiar
  • Targeting high potential women who might feel trapped by no advancement
  • Educating whole organisations about obvious and subtle discrimination
  • Providing high quality childcare facilities
  • Setting clear and measurable goals to achieve in relation to gender parity
  • Eliminating the gender pay gap

“The most important factor in determining whether you will succeed isn’t your gender, it’s you. Be open to opportunity and take risks. In fact, take the worst, the messiest, the most challenging assignment that you can find, and then take control.”
— Angela Braly, CEO of WellPoint

 

What can we do as women to help the process and to empower ourselves?

For a start, we can recognise that social conditioning is a very powerful thing.  Men and women are affected by generations of stereotyping.  This will take some time to change in both our minds. In the meantime, take an active role to participate in breaking down the walls.

Support other women. By giving credit to your female colleagues where credit is due, or recognising their achievements that might normally be overlooked, you show appreciation and respect. Lift each other up, there is enough room under the light for everyone to shine.

Make learning a passion. The more you are willing to learn, the better you will adapt to situations, find solutions to difficult problems and communicate with your colleagues and managers.

Speak up about inappropriate behaviour. Don’t be silent when you’re present and a conversation turns to inuendo or derogatory jokes. Just say no.

Make decisions. Quite often we stand back and let others direct our teams, development or even our lives. Take control. Make the decisions and take responsibility for your contribution.

Join hands with other evolving leaders. We can’t become who we want to become by ourselves. Remaining strong in the face of adversity, staying convinced in the face of pushback requires a team of like-minded people we can reconnect with when we feel deflated, discouraged and demotivated. Find women – and men – who believe in diversity and collaboration as much as you do and meet with them regularly for a re-charging dose of inspiration, sharing and learning.

 

Lynette Croxford. Guest author and Azkua Network Partner

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