Monday, October 4, 2010

Are Women Leaders the Missing Link for Your Company?

Even as more women head to work, the ones who get to work in a corner office remain rare:

  • While the public has a high (89%) comfort level with woman as leaders, only 18% of top leadership positions are held by women.
  • Woman rank above men in five of the eight character traits highly valued by the public in leaders (honesty, intelligence, creativity, outgoingness, compassion) and equal men in two others (hardworking and ambition), yet account for only 3% of CEOs, 6% of top paying positions and 16% of corporate officers.

These were among the fascinating facts I learned from Marie C. Wilson, president of The White House Project, an organization that advocates for more women in leadership roles. Wilson, author of “Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World,” spoke last week as part of a Mount Mary College Women’s Leadership Institute event.

At a time when companies need the very best in talent and creativity to gain a competitive edge, businesses would be wise to heed Wilson’s message.

So what can your company do? Creating a flexible work environment that appeals to women and rewards them for their unique strengths is a good start.

Women also may respond to different forms of encouragement than men, Wilson said. For example, men typically assume authority more comfortably than women. Your organization may want to do more to encourage women to take initiative, speak at events and promote their own talents.

For more ideas, Forbes has an interesting case study on efforts to recruit and retain more women leaders at Sodexo, a global food services firm.

Why should you consider similar initiatives? Because as a White House Project report points out, both women and men bring value to the table—but their combined effort creates the strongest foundation for innovation and prosperity. Gender diversity at all levels of an organization is a key recruitment and retention challenge that’s essential to your success.

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