Within the framework of the business and management world, would women be more successful if they adopted more “male” leadership traits? By shaping the complex issue of women in leadership in this question, we are basically asking women to conform to a rigid workplace environment that excludes them at best, and diminishes them at worst.
The mindset which imagines that the lack of women in leadership positions is because they are not “male” enough has to stop. We do not need to “fix” women. We need to fix our set of rigid, inflexible organisations. After all, the glass ceiling, the unequal pay gap, the lack of opportunities, the unconscious bias, and discrimination against women in the workplace are still very real, unresolved issues.
We should be actively seeking and retaining women in leadership positions. Data show that organisations which foster the inclusion of women in leadership positions and promote equality improve their financial performance, strengthen their organisational climate, and enhance their innovation and collective intelligence, among many other benefits.
What, then, are we, both as individuals and as organisations, doing to include more women in leadership positions?
Women not only make up 50% of the population of the world, they also dominate virtually every consumer purchase category, and are still pretty much underrepresented in almost every government, company, and organisation. They still make up less of the active economic workforce in almost every type of industry.
The “act like a man to be successful” paradigm is, for lack of a better word, rubbish. Feeding insecurity and anxiety to people that don’t fit this mould of “male driven success” won’t lead to any real progress. If that assumption were true, then all the men we know would be aggressive, competitive and rude, factors that are considered to be “male” oriented. Yet we all know men who tend to be more sensitive, nurturing and collaborative, which are somehow considered “female” leadership traits.
We should be able to recognise, nurture, and encourage a diversity of ideas and leadership styles, regardless of gender. The quest in organisations should be to seek balance in contributions, in order to attract and retain the best of talents. In order to implement this successfully, we need to stop thinking in terms of male/female gender oriented leadership traits; research shows that even if male and female leadership styles do differ in statistically significant ways, these differences are rather small.
Countries, organisations, and people who navigate through a mix of both “male” and “female” traits have proved to be the most successful in this ever-changing complex business environment. Companies who are able to recognise that there is a deeper merit in gender diversity, and which are truly committed to change beyond quotas, sameness-thinking, and one-size-fits-all meritocracies, will be the ones that thrive. These companies will be the ones that, regardless of size, will secure and use the best talent by embracing gender equality and welcoming the diversity of thought that comes with real progress.