Women in Leadership: broken rungs & glass ceilings…someone needs to fix this damn house
By Myste Wylde, COO at Culturati
Opinion: You may want to take the following with a splash of A-1.
2023 has dawned and the answer is Women. Even the most stubborn steakhouse CEOs should now see the writing on the wall at Morton’s. Worried about a lack of talent and the diminishing workforce? Foster the women in your organization or create a culture that invites them in. Know you need to diversify your products and policies to keep up with changes in generational demand? Establish a mentorship pipeline for female executives and up-and-comers. And if you mainly care about the bottom line and not missing your tee time, put a Woman in charge. Think that’s harsh? Sexism isn’t fun for anyone. So let’s make doubling down on the XX your priority this year.
…And if you’re already there, I challenge you to do better. Women on the way — I got you too. Let’s make sure all of our houses are in order.
By the numbers:
In 2020, Fortune 500 companies with at least three women in leadership positions saw a 66% increase in ROI (with an estimated purchasing power of $5 trillion dollars). Statistics show that companies with high-gender-diversity deliver better returns and outperform less diverse organizations. And this is at every level. Research conducted by McKinsey & Company found that executive boards in the top quartile of gender diversity are 27% more likely to have superior value creation. Executive teams in this quartile are 21% more likely to perform above the national industry mean on profitability, and teams in that space are 15% more likely to outperform.
Yes, females in power do, by the data, create stronger relationships, exhibit more empathy and EQ, and are better at preventing burnout amongst their teams than their male counterparts, but it’s not just about the soft skills. Their unique perspectives aid in problem-solving, ideation, and boosting innovation overall…not to mention individual intellectual capacity, talent, and personal attributes like grit, drive, adaptability, and resilience.
Understanding the obstacles:
Whether you’re sold on being a better human being or benefiting your bottom line, part of the people -> performance -> profits journey is identifying the roadblocks. Women in the workforce and women in leadership, especially, face many challenges, not the least of which are the far-reaching repercussions of COVID-19. A University of Kansas study revealed that during this period, one in three working mothers in two-parent homes were sole caregivers for their children (as opposed to one in ten working fathers). An estimated 39% of the global workforce were women — and women experienced 54% of the job losses, in large part due to lack of childcare. The World Economic Forum’s most recent analysis projects that gender parity will now take 132 years to accomplish, whereas prior to COVID-19 it was estimated at less than 100 years. That’s an entire generation lost. Further to that, they advise that if left unaddressed the global economy could shrink by a trillion dollars in less than a decade.
The reality is that women are experiencing burnout faster. On average, they spend more time on unpaid DEI work within their organizations than men do, and many have the added stress of traditional gender-norm expectations at home. As much progress as some companies have made, there is still a lack of training and development for women on a leadership track. Systemic impediments include sexism, microaggressions, and patriarchal power structures that, by the way, also feed into imposter syndrome which creates barriers both internally and externally.
How you can help:
As a leader within your organization, there are several ways to change this dynamic. To start, you can remove the gender bias from your pay scale. No one wants to work for 82 cents to the dollar. Parity and transparency here are key. Provide educational opportunities to help bridge the financial literacy gap. Unsurprisingly…creating a safe, supportive and inclusive culture is critical to attracting and retaining female talent (as well as talent from other marginalized groups and the intersections therein). Components of this include examining your existing policies and structures, creating mentorship pathways and communities, providing learning and development opportunities, and being serious about work/life balance. And if the resources are there, help strengthen the childcare infrastructure.
Women — how you can help yourselves:
Though these are certainly not the only ways, highlighted below are three traits identified in this HBR piece on how women successfully sustain career momentum. The authors interviewed 37 women in senior leadership roles with experiences in 75 corporations — 25% were Black and 75% were white. Despite incredibly varied backgrounds and resumes, they discovered these commonalities cropped up in pivotal moments.
- Grit. They call it a focused drive. You could call it tenacity, perseverance, persistence, determination. By any name, it’s the inner strength one taps into to push through challenges to achieve a higher goal.
- An incessant desire to learn — and I’ll couple this with courage. Most of the women interviewed moved sideways or to smaller companies to gain knowledge and experience. 70% pivoted twice or more to pick up momentum and of the 27% who stayed with the same companies, more than half moved geographically or to new fields within the organization.
- An agile mindset. Flexible thinking, an understanding of your personal brand, and an eye on your ultimate career goals all helped these women accomplish theirs.
So let 2023 be the year of the Female Leader. We’ll be exploring this in greater detail during our upcoming, in-person Summit where Women in Leadership will be a key focus of Leadership Reimagined. Our other programming pillars are Talent in a Hybrid World and the Future of the Workplace with through lines: productivity, resilience, mental health and wellness, brands taking a stand, and DEI+.
“Steakholders,” you can relax. Juicy margins await.