Has the pandemic made a difference to women seeking leadership roles? The bad news is that some women have left the workforce due to the need to take care of their families. Others have had to cut down on their hours to make things work, and still, others were furloughed and are looking for new roles. The good news is, there is no better time for women to seek leadership positions. Here’s why.
Why Empathy is Important in Leadership
While world leaders tried to contain the spread of coronavirus, we saw the impact of different leadership styles. The world discovered that people needed empathy, compassion, and support to get through these difficult times. It took a global pandemic to recognize the role empathy, which comes more naturally for women, plays in leadership. Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, was widely praised for her bold approach to the pandemic.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel established unity in the nation’s response to the pandemic. Norway and Taiwan national response also proved to be effective; both have female leaders.
Women-led companies tend to cultivate a positive culture. They are good at inspiring belief in the products and services they offer. They tend to develop family-friendly policies, especially around working from home. That’s empathy.
Women CEOs in Fortune 500 Companies
As of August 2020, there were 38 women appointed to the role of CEO in Fortune 500 companies, and of those, only one black woman. This represents only 7.8% of women in these top positions. Fortune 100 companies women only represent 5.8% of CEOs.
Despite a challenging 2020, women held 7.8% of CEO roles compared with 6.7% at the beginning of 2020. As reported in the Women CEOs in America Report, “We expect women CEOs to constitute 8.2% of CEOs by February 2021 and 15% of Fortune 500 and S&P roles by 2025, with 10% of those being women of color.”
We need to stop thinking about equality and diversity as a metric and think in terms of business objectives. We need to see more women in leadership roles.
Diversity and Inclusion Quotas
There’s an old saying, “If women ran the world, there would be no wars.” Gender diversity in corporate settings leads to increased productivity, better decision making, more innovation, and higher employee retention and satisfaction. Studies have shown that hiring women into leadership roles is good for business.
The biggest mistake boards, senior leaders, and recruiters make in the corporate world is trying to fill a diversity and inclusion quota. Despite the known benefits that diversity and inclusion bring to the table, they still need to recruit the best person for the job. This brings us to the question of how many women apply for top leadership roles.
When a leadership role is advertised, women tend to think they need 100% of the skills and experience needed to apply. Men can only have 80% of the skills and experience needed, and yet they apply anyway, thinking they will learn the remaining 20% on the job. Despite their potential, women often hold themselves back and fail to see themselves in the top job. They just don’t see themselves in a CEO role. The key is, if you aspire to become a female leader, you have to put yourself in the game.
How Has the Pandemic Opened Doors for Women?
It’s the beginning of 2021, and the world is still in crisis due to to the pandemic. When you take a line through how women leaders dealt with the pandemic compared with men, women are naturally positioned to take on leadership roles during this continued crisis. Needs have changed and with it, so have our values. What we valued prior to the pandemic is not the same as what we value now.
Because of the events that unfolded due to the coronavirus, the need to stay healthy emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually is more important than ever. This is what women do so well; they understand that the world won’t be the same after the pandemic. By putting employee needs first, offering flexible work options, extended paid time off for furloughed workers allows talented women to stay in the workforce.
While men have dominated the traditional corporate landscape, and some women have broken the glass ceiling, we are seeing a shift in female entrepreneurship.
According to the Center for Women in Business, the woman entrepreneurs’ landscape has helped to advance women in leadership.
- 30% of all new businesses have been started by women.
- 2% of women-owned businesses have ten or more employees.
- 90% of women-owned businesses have no employees.
A growing trend for women-owned businesses is they don’t have employees. These jobless women entrepreneurs have come from the corporate world. They include executives, technicians, and other female professionals who either preferred to strike out on their own or did so due to necessity.
Here’s How Women Can Navigate Leadership Roles More Easily
Once you are in a leadership role, being authentic is crucial to success. A mistake many women make when new to leadership is believing they need to act like a man. Authenticity is the key to succeeding as a female entrepreneur or business leader.
1. Earn Respect – Don’t Command Respect.
There is a difference between being a boss and a leader. Just because you are in a leadership role, it doesn’t automatically mean others will respect or follow you. You can’t demand respect; it’s something you must earn. Lead by example, stay humble yet fair, firm, and kind. Above all, remember people have a choice to follow you or not.
2. Communicate Confidently
Clear, confident communication goes a long way to cement your standing as a leader. Learning to communicate with clarity and confidence is key to your success. As a woman, for your opinion to be heard means being assertive, not aggressive or passive. This doesn’t mean being rude or loud; it means communicating with confidence, courage, and strength.
3. Learn How to Handle Conflict
At some time in your career, you will face conflict. It might be a conflict between employees, conflict with the board, conflict with your subordinates, peers, or direct reports. Learning to handle conflict is a crucial leadership skill where you need to be calm, diplomatic, and pragmatic. The focus is always to get past the conflict and find an amicable win-win solution.
4. Seek Out a Business Coach or Mentor
There’s a saying, “It’s lonely at the top,” and this is so true. You can’t confide in employees or board members as an example. You need someone who has your back, who is neutral and open-minded, and that is to find yourself a mentor or business coach where you can discuss issues and insecurities in a confidential environment.
5. Adopt a Positive Winning Attitude
People are more likely to follow a leader who adopts a positive outlook when dealing with people and making decisions. Things aren’t always going to go to plan; having a positive and collaborative approach to dealing with challenges will cement your place as a leader.
There is no better time for women to bring their natural leadership skills to the table. What we need now, more than ever, is empathy in leadership. The only thing holding you back is you.