Diverse leadership means diverse thinking, perspectives, and approaches. Utilising a broad range of perspectives on leadership is what makes a positive impact on business success, and that doesn’t just apply to gender equality – culturally diverse companies are shown to be up to 35% more profitable than their counterparts.
Numbers talk, and the evidence is overwhelming that companies with a higher percentage of female leadership see a significant increase in profitability, higher results in innovation and more patents, and improved stock performance.
For starters, women tend to listen before reacting, and apply a high level of emotional intelligence. Lakshmi Raj, co-founder and co-CEO of Replicon believes, ‘this is something that comes more naturally to women than men and is something that I've personally encountered in my career. To truly create a great place to work and to get the best out of employees, demonstrating emotional intelligence as a leader is critical’.
We asked Clare Beumont, Head of Consulting at Rise, on what she thinks makes a good leader. “Being a good leader is about being authentic to who you are – knowing what you stand for, what conditions you operate best and what you are trying to achieve. From here it's about understanding the people you are trying to influence... getting their perspectives and providing a clear path forward. Finally, making work fun, rewarding and inspiring - helping people to see what can be achieved and making the experience meaningful and enjoyable.”
How do we change the conversation?
Female representation in executive and leadership roles is still low, but the good news is that it’s on the rise. The Australian Institute of Company Directors shows that the percentage of female directorship on ASX200 boards has risen from 21.7% in 2015 to 29.6% in 2019 – a significant jump in just four years, and an encouraging sign of what’s to come for Australian businesses.
There’s still a long way to go, and the path to better representation entails a complex cultural shift spanning across the professional space and broader society, something that can take generations to achieve. A big part of eliciting change is challenging the way we think about gender diversity, which often is framed as a woman’s problem. It’s time for that conversation to shift, because gender disparity affects all of us.
Edwina Trenchard-Smith, Diversity and Inclusion Enthusiast, shared with us her thoughts on how we can change current trends, suggesting that a big part of the problem lies in the distribution of labour and where expectations lie beyond the workplace. “One of the things I am particularly interested in as a leader, is what is happening outside the workplace and how that plays out at work,” she said. “Unfortunately, we still exist in a time where there is an unequal burden placed on women. Women are told they can have it all, and are expected to do it all. I am referring to having a career as well as having family and community responsibilities.”
“When I read a statement in an article that women experience burnout in organisations more than men, I think we can not look at work in isolation. Of course they burnout.” Ms Trenchard-Smith states that women’s issues such as under-participation, the gender pay gap, lower superannuation, and the need for flexibility can be addressed by having the same expectations of everyone, and frame it as everyone’s problem…..As soon as we make family, caring and domestic life a man’s problem too, we level the playing field.”
So what steps can your business take?
Supporting men to contribute equally to family commitments is a good place to start. “Parental leave is a really good limitus test on an organisation’s acceptance of men as carers”, Ms Trenchard-Smith said. “As a female leader, let’s change the conversation from being about women (as that conversation has been happening for 20 years and it isn’t changing fast enough) to being about men, and increasing access to 50/50 participation in family life.”
This International Women’s Day, it’s worth taking the time to celebrate and reflect on the contributions of women to your company, and consider what steps can be taken to diversify participation in leadership roles. Our latest podcast ‘Jessica, The Fisher-woman’ is a great leadership example where she overcame extreme challenges in the workplace, being a woman was just one of them.
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