Harvard Business Review explored this topic in a recent study that examined more than 7,000 men and women leaders, measuring 16 different attributes.
The study found that in measuring the attributes – which included taking initiative, developing strategic perspective, driving for results and developing others – women outperformed men in all but one of the areas and significantly outperformed them in four.
So why are there so few women in high leadership roles? In Harvard Business Review’s study, which compiled data from some of the most successful and progressive organizations in the world, the majority of leaders (64%) are still men.
Women leaders provided an inside look at the challenges women face in rising to the top and how their professional journeys may different from that of their male colleagues during Randstad’s Women Powering Business breakfast and panel discussion.
Patricia Falotico, Vice President at IBM, said that a growing number of professional women have decided to steer clear of the leadership track in favor of a better working environment.
“The attractiveness of the C-suite has lost some of its luster,” Falotico said. “More and more younger women have decided they don’t want that. They don’t want to put themselves in an environment that is not nurturing, even if they have the capabilities.”
What’s also lacking is the element of sponsorship for women and the opportunities to take chances, Falotico said.
“You have to have that sponsor who pulls you along and nurturing that kind of relationship is so important,” she said. “Also, have we been tested sufficiently? Have we been given the opportunity to take a chance, perhaps make mistakes and not have them be fatal?”
Another way women could succeed as leaders is providing a workplace more conducive to families, said Emory University professor Dr. Pamela Scully. She compared America to Europe and said the U.S. is way behind in creating a workplace structured for parenting. The structure could be changed, she said, if businesses provided more childcare at work, more maternity/paternity leave and other factors.
“In America, we tend to think of failure and success individually without paying attention to the structure,” Scully said. “We haven’t been good at creating structural conditions for women to succeed and have children and not have to make choices. Women are faced with impossible choices and not supported as mothers.”
Stacie Hagan, Chief People Officer for EarthLink, Inc., said businesses succeed most when men and women work together and that companies who don’t allow women to succeed will suffer overall.
“Men and women bring different qualities to leadership and that’s why a blend is best,” Hagan said. “If we want to have a whole brain making decisions at the table, we should make sure we bring these diverse perspectives together. If women aren’t pursuing these roles because of the structure of companies, businesses won’t be able to compete.”
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