For many centuries women had little influence in business. As recently as the 1960s it was still commonplace for senior roles and many industries to be male-dominated. The presence of a woman attempting to break down barriers would, back then, send a business into a spin. Now, there are a number of emerging women leaders that show the qualities that women bring to the workplace. So thankfully the situation is changing, albeit not as quickly as some would hope. So why is it still difficult for women to break through barriers to the most senior roles in business? Can businesses benefit by being more diverse, open-minded and prepared to fully appreciate what particular skills and qualities women bring?
Femininity in the boardroom
The first point to note is that bringing women into a business, especially at boardroom or senior executive level will only bring reward if they can truly be a woman. Women have made it to positions of power, of course. Often, however, we hear them say that they only achieve or feel accepted if they behave like the men. They are afraid to stand out and speak up for fear of being shut down so they try an fit in with the status quo.
Many industries are traditionally male-dominated. But now, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is becoming more prominent as companies seek to bring the benefits of diversity to their teams.
It should not be that any women with ambition and the ability to succeed has to has to fight for the opportunity to show the value they can bring. It is about opening up industries, breaking down barriers and actively enabling women to progress beyond the invisible, yet definite, glass ceiling that is in place.
Convincing others that change is needed is something we can all play a part in. We can help by empowering leadership, effectively managing change, and using skilled communicators to drive culture change in the workplace.
The proof is in the numbers
Research carried out identified that companies are more profitable when women make up just 30% of executive roles. However, we are still almost 70 years away from the FTSE 350 leading company executive committees achieving full gender balance, if nothing changes.
Rising to the top shouldn’t be about gender or about women who emulate men. It should be about who is best for the job: a level playing field.
What qualities do women bring to business?
We know that successful women throughout industry bring different qualities to their male counterparts. They can shake up and rethink business operations quite simply because they do think differently from men and have had different experiences which shapes the way they tackle innovation, change and risk. This can have a hugely positive influence in changing perception, breaking down industry barriers and equalising rights. But what are these specific qualities that women bring to the workplace?
Ability to learn
It has been scientifically proven in a study by Newcastle University that girls learn faster, often mature faster and have a flair for learning that surpasses many boys. Women often continue to learn and gain qualifications later in life than their male counterparts.
Planning and organisation
Women are more readily capable of multi-tasking, planning and devising strong strategies. The ability to manage multiple tasks, projects and people is a skill that makes them ideal candidates in fast-paced environments. For instance, in an agile project management environment they can foster collaboration, manage risks and uncertainty, and deliver projects on time to add value to the business. Women who can delegate and organise others whilst effectively ensuring everyone contributes and complete tasks can be of real benefit to a business.
Effective and inspiring leadership
As a leader, women tend to motivate and inspire others to achieve. As nurturers and mediators, they can manage and lead, balancing both the business and people needs. Determination and single-mindedness drive their entrepreneurial skills. And, they are likely to be seen as fairer and more generous in supporting those around them.
Observant and cynical
Women are also more likely to notice more than their male colleagues. Being more cynically natured they look for flaws in plans and are less ready to take things at face value. This is the more detailed observation that could spot things that others miss.
Thrifty and resourceful
Budgeting, bargain hunting and lean methodology are skills women have that few men can match. Their negotiation skills will ensure that stakeholders are not paying out unnecessarily and without exploring other avenues before they part with large sums of money.
Men often have less need to be adaptable through life, they go through school, work and come home. Those with a wife or partner will often leave the household organisation to them even if they also work or have children to look after, wrong as this may be. Women often occupy many roles, as a wife, mother or carer, alongside the working life they choose. They are naturally equipped to adapt to cope as their life changes. A business more adaptable and resilient to change will fare better, adaptability is a competitive advantage that many women have. Women bring diversity and the advantage of more readily thinking outside the box.
Women often find better work-life balance. Whether single or married, with or without children they are stronger than many men at establishing routines. Even when working both are working in high powered full-time positions, women are generally more likely to provide the stability at home. Women are more readily honest and open about their feelings, and factor time for self-care. Workplaces with a strong sense of self-care will do better than an environment where no one speaks out. Men who work alongside women are likely to benefit from an environment that not only manages work but promotes health and happiness.
While there are many successful businessmen who have some of the qualities we’ve mentioned above, women certainly have many more of these qualities to bring to a business. Women that have risen to the dizzy heights of the corporate executive have done so with grit and determination to change ingrained structures and years of history. Their success shows that women are often an equal choice and for some roles, a far better one.