Diversity & Inclusion: Putting more women in leadership positions should be a strategy
While March 8th is officially known as International Women’s Day, the whole month of March tends to be dedicated to “honoring” women. So, here is why we should be investing more in female leadership: in companies and organizations as well as women-led startups.
I wrote a blog post (in Italian) last week about International Women’s Day for Verona Professional Women Networking and the falsity today that goes into this day. We, both men and women, shower women with compliments on this day, but for what exactly? Simply for being women? If we look at the situation statistically, women still lag behind men in many key areas in the workplace including management positions, pay gap and work-life balance.
Since I live in Italy, some of the numbers are particularly shocking:
· The female employment rate rests at 49% despite women making up 55% of university students
· During the pandemic, women worked 3x more on average to juggle work, families and often children at home in online learning
· In December 2019, Italy lost 101K jobs, and 99K of these were women
· In Italy, only 18% of management contracts are female, and less than 25% of businesses and organizations are run by women. In 2019 only 13.5% of innovative startups were founded by women
While these statistics might improve slightly in other countries, the reality isn’t much better. However, it really does pay to invest in women, not only in the workforce, but in management positions. Studies have actually demonstrated that female leadership leads to better performance results.
According to a Harvard Business Review study in 2020, women were proven to be more effective leaders pre-pandemic, and it was only further demonstrated during the pandemic. In this study, women outperformed men in 13 out of 19 categories including taking initiative, learning agility, inspires and motivates others, develops others, builds relationships, displays high integrity and honesty and several other attributes related to communication, soft skills and emotional intelligence.
Another key finding is that employees reporting to women had higher levels of engagement, especially during the pandemic. Employees want leaders who understand stress and anxiety in the workplace, a sort of empathy towards the work-life balance.
A study by McKinsley also highlights the fact that gender diverse companies are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability.
Companies should strive for gender diversity in its leadership and management positions as a way to acquire new skills in demand in a people-driven market and work environment: relationship building, open and transparent communication and emotional intelligence. Likewise, women in companies should be motivated to design a career path that leads to management potential through training and constant empowerment.
How do we implement a women in the workplace strategy?
· Evaluate the gender diversity in management and executive roles now
· Find out from employees what skills and qualities they look for in a leader through an internal survey
· Invest in training that develops both technical and soft skills
· Encourage all women in the company to develop a career plan
· Research and apply for government incentives that favor female employment and leadership (there are more than you think!)
· Encourage women to network through professional organizations
· Support female innovation and entrepreneurship: if your company has an R&D or innovation program encourage a special program for women
Be flexible with family and childcare: many women struggle to manage work and family life (so called “emotional labor”). Allow for small adjustments like flexible hours and smartworking when possible.
M7 Social Project and Social Impact
As the founder and President of a professional women’s association, I am dedicated to issues of gender parity and giving women an equal opportunity in the workplace where I have faced discrimination and hardship myself as a working mother.
M7 Social Project is also dedicated to helping female entrepreneurs with their startup marketing to help them get an idea off the ground.