When it comes to Leadership, there is still a space at the table of many world-leading brands for female leaders to step in and show the world what we’re made of.
Women in business have battled over and again to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts, to get the top jobs, to earn the same salaries, and to be respected in senior roles.
Is this a case of overt discrimination – or is it simply that we all, unconsciously, expect a certain type of person to fill specific positions, and tend towards aiming for those roles, or placing others in those roles, with the comfort of familiarity?
We spoke in our last blog post about Unconscious Bias – and how we all lean towards and are attracted to that which is familiar and similar to our own experiences – which can have a detrimental impact on the diversity of our organisation, and thus of the skills, experiences and ideas of our workforce – the more diverse we make ourselves, the more diverse a market we appeal to, after all.
But when it comes to women in leadership, a huge amount of work has gone into preventing the rectuitment process allowing any kind of overt discrimination – so women aren’t ruled out of a senior position just for being women. And still, the number of women in those top spots has hardly grown.
What is it that’s stopping women succeeding as business leaders as often as men?
It may seem controversial to state bluntly – but the fact that men and women are different, and thus lead differently, can’t be ignored.
Yes, these are generalisations, but they are generalisations we only make having studied a great deal of data, including an enormous number of personality metrics – such as Meyers Briggs – examining the personality types of the many business leaders we have worked with in three decades of business.
As a whole, women tend to be more skilled in ‘soft skill’ leadership – in understanding personality types and factoring in the emotional and mental impact of a role on their workers. This can make them seem softer, and this can often mean that they are taken less seriously – or that those who are firm are seen as hard or bossy where a man would simply be called firm.
When it comes to business there is a lot of benefit in the ability to successfully manage ‘soft skills’ as head of an organisation – getting the best out of people is about far more than the on-paper results, and is a lot to do with how content they are in their role – and this means that what has often been viewed as a weakness is a true strength.
One thing that we have seen, over and over again, is that women – more often than men – lack the confidence in themselves to push ahead and ask for those leadership roles. Women are more cautious, and more worried that they may not meet the full criteria for the role, and don’t tend to ‘big up’ their experience in the same way a man might – and this comes, often, from unconscious bias – which can be applied to our own career path as well as recruiting others.
When you have been raised in a world that expects women to smile, be ‘nice’ and not be loud, aggressive or rude, it is also expected that a leader needs to be firm and outspoken – which women are trained from childhood not to be – which means that it often doesn’t feel natural for a woman to put herself forward and push for promotion, pay rises or top positions, because we feel innately that it’s going against the ‘way things should be’ because of the way things were for many generations.
This is a pattern that only we can change – while organisations are more and more ready to challenge prejudice and increase diversity, we as women also need to challenge our own sense of ‘know your place’ and push beyond our comfort zone to achieve those roles.
If you are looking to widen the scope of your career progression, or access the skills you have already learned to apply them to leadership roles, want to build your confidence in leadership, or have a workforce that is lacking diversity and inclusion, our ‘Women in Leadership’ programmes are designed to support any women on that path. Call today on 01234 757575 to speak to our consultants and arrange a meeting to discuss how we can help.