The Case For Women In Leadership: Diversity, Inclusivity & Necessity

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One day we hope we can live in a world where the issue of “women in leadership” isn’t even relevant. That the concern about leadership qualities exist outside of gender boundaries. We have made plenty of progress and the more female leaders we see elected and promoted to notable and powerful positions around the world makes us realize that change is happening.

But the fact that there are still headlines with the words “first female” anything can be cause for disappointment knowing there are sectors where women have been largely absent until recently.

We have written many articles sharing statistics, reports and research and while we don’t want to stop sharing vital information, it’s important to balance it out with positive affirmations and instances where women are succeeding and paving the way for future generations.

In a recent commencement speech at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told graduates why it is important to have women in positions of leadership.

“Women hold a very few of the leadership roles in every country. In every country leadership are overwhelmingly held by men. In the U.S. and China and everywhere in the world women hold less than 6% of the top CEO roles and fewer leadership roles in every industry. I believe, very deeply, that the world would be a better place when men run half our homes and women run half our organizations and our companies,” she said.

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“And I want to make this very clear- equality is not just good for women. It’s good for everyone. Female participation in the workforce is a major driver of economic growth. And companies who use the full talents of the population outperform others.”

Sheryl has been one of the most vocal proponents of not just women in leadership, but giving women unhindered opportunities to progress up the corporate ladder without societal expectations and stereotypes holding them back. We now live in an era where women don’t need to “act like a lady, think like a man” to be considered a successful leader. Feminine traits are just as important and companies are starting to recognize the benefit to having a diverse set of leadership skills in the workplace, as opposed to traditional male attributes.

Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store told the audience at the iCONIC Conference in Los Angeles in June that he believes women make better business leaders than men.

He talked about the need for more women in leadership positions because they bring something to the table men cannot.

“I think what is happening now is that you are getting more of a conscious capitalist approach and less of this top-down, military kind of structure … there’s a beautiful feminization of American business taking place,” he said.

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Kip identified a couple of key areas where he has seen women excel better than men.

First, he says women communicate better.

“You can’t talk about women and leadership without making a few generalizations, but guess who tends to communicate better?” he asked the crowd. In fact he goes as far as to say communication, empathy and emotional intelligence are key for conscious capitalism. Clearly his progressive thoughts have a ways to go until they are adopted by the rest of the business world.

“We aren’t that far along yet. Only 23 or 24 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women,” he added.

The second trait he talked about was teamwork, which he says women are better at than their male counterparts because they “are a little bit more mutually supportive and mutually communicative.”

FYI, the Container Store has 70 stores, 6,000 employees, $782 million in revenue in 2014 and has consistently been included on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list 16 years running.

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Another company recognizing the need to diversify its gender balance is GoDaddy. Yep, that company that has become synonymous with blatantly sexist commercials has decided to re-brand itself as a company dedicated to hiring more women.

At a recent panel focused on Silicon Valley’s efforts to hire more women, GoDaddy’s SVP of digital identity Lauren Antonoff said the company is being so intentional about being a great place for women to work.

The decision came about after realizing 50% of its customers were women, so why not cater to them as well!

Hiring women in general isn’t enough, it is about opening opportunities to women that have normally been dominated by men. After opening an office in Silicon Valley in 2013, their female tech hires have increased from 14% in 2014 to 39% in 2015, and 30% of their interns are female. So far only 24 percent of its workforce consists of women. It’s 18 percent women in technical roles and 26 percent women in non-technical roles. In leadership, 30 percent of its senior leadership is female, while 23 percent of overall leadership is women, reports BizJournals.

“We’re making sure to provide opportunities to bring in great women in leadership. We’re not filling traditional roles like HR and marketing. (At a recent meeting) the chief marketing and HR head were the two men in the room at GoDaddy,” said Lauren Antonoff.

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In April, GoDaddy was named as one of the best companies for women technologists, alongside Google, Apple and eBay.

This is a far cry from the sexist advertising the company has become known for. GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving told Fast Company in January about the level commitment to change.

“Reputation takes a long time to change, especially if you’ve got a 10-year history of doing advertising that’s more about getting attention. We have made sure that our advertising that has been happening since March has been very consistent about supporting diversity,” he said.

Companies need to take responsibility for creating environments where women can thrive not just to fill a quote, but to offer complementary and beneficial skills to the workplace.

The more commitments there are from both men and women to see the benefits of a diverse set of leadership skills offered to a company, the less this whole “women in leadership” issue will be a thing. Like Sheryl Sandberg says in her book ‘Lean In’, “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

Girl-Boss

 

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