The custodians of gender egalitarianism would have certainly found comfort in the rise of Theresa May to the helm of UK polity. It gives hope, if not anything, to the rather scantily-sized club of female heads of government. It should not come as a surprise if gender sensitivity finds its way into the agenda of US voters and results to Hillary Clinton joining the same club; smashing the upper glass ceiling for the first time in US presidential history.
A study by Pew Research Center gives light to the same hope. As per the study, the number of women who are leaders – presidents or head of state – have more than doubled since 2005.
A similar wave of hope breaks through the ignorant, yet lately pertinent chauvinism of the corporate board rooms. Overcoming identity crisis and perceptual blatant discrimination, the women leaders are soaring unfathomed heights, with four percent of the top 500 S&P companies being led by women CEOs. Fortune 500 also shows a more or less similar trend. While being sobering, the number is impactful considering that the rise has more than doubled itself in the last decade, and promises only better.
The rise is not unexplainable and the hope, not unnecessary. Women are now challenging the competencies of their male counterparts in almost every aspect of business world, bringing about thought diversity in the board rooms, and playing significant role in the global economy.
Fighter within a Female – Instinctive Agility
Women leaders have traditionally been scoring above men in competencies like building professional relationships, workplace integrity and self-development engagements. The same has been established by a recent survey by the Harvard Business Review, and would certainly continue to be the key strengths of all the women leaders of our times. However, and very interestingly – as opposed to the general stereotype - the study also ascertained women’s excellence over men in taking new initiatives and for their drive for the results.
Be it Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, or HP’s Meg Whitman – the list goes on and on – they all share the new age grit to hustle and the perennial drive to excellence.
Such a rise may also be attributed to the hostile demanding market environment and changing business models, leading to the evolution of women as a leader. The instinctive agility that comes with being a women, and the innate ability to multi-task – thanks to the upbringing pattern of women in our society – help them take up challenging responsibilities and resolve complex business problems with effortless ease, thus reaping great dividends for themselves, as well as the organization.
Rising Above Impediments – Second Generation Gender Bias
The rise of the new age women leaders has certainly not been smooth and sudden. While overcoming patriarchal discrimination and social inhibitions form part of the general dialogue around underrepresentation of women in leadership, second generation gender bias is something recent and hegemonic, which the women leaders have successfully conquered.
Fewer women role models, gendered career paths (think sales and operations leading to leadership positions), and ‘trailing spouse’ societal assumptions have been marring the growth of women in the corporate structure. The hope around the rise of women in future expects them to be geared up to tackle these barriers, which despite being seemingly neutral, are a late reflection of the same old male dominated values.
Reshma Saujani resonates a similar fight and resolve, whose efforts aim to alleviate the indisposed gender gap in the fastest growing tech industry. Her initiative – Girls Who Code – is a fine example of empowering women and building a pipeline of future women leaders in an industry which has been traditionally and frivolously gifted to the virile gender. She, and many alike, are changing the perceptions and breaking barriers for the good of the future.
Women leaders are no more ‘exceptions’; they are noticeable driving force behind businesses. An Ernst & Young sponsored study, conducted by a Washington based think-tank Peterson Institute for International Economics, confirms positive correlation between the proportion of women in corporate leadership and the profitability of the organization. Clearly, although nascent, the time has come of the new age women leader, doing their bit in the world economy.