Evidence is mounting that women executives have a positive effect on the bottom line. In fact, the economic reasons for progressing women into senior management positions are compelling.
Research by Columbia University and the University of Maryland business schools shows a strong positive association between return on assets and return on equity on the one hand, and the participation of women in top roles on the other.
Another recent study by McKinsey demonstrated that among companies for which gender information was available, those with three or more women on their senior management teams scored higher on nine organisational criteria of success than did companies with no senior-level women.
Gain a competitive advantage
“It stands to reason that organisations that are able to find ways to increase the diversity at senior levels have a significant opportunity to hone their competitive advantage,” says Liz de Wet, course director of the Women in Leadership programme at UCT’s Graduate School of Business (GSB).
Given that women are still underrepresented in most organisations and governments around the world, there is plenty of scope for forward thinking organisations to capitalise on this, she adds.
Less than 1/3 of SA’s managers are women
According to the latest Businesswoman Association corporate census, just 28% of senior management positions in South Africa are held by women.
De Wet says that while old models of business may have worked in the past 150 years, the business landscape has shifted dramatically in the past decade.
A balance of intellectual and emotional qualities
According to Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project and author of Be Excellent at Anything, “An effective modern leader requires a blend of intellectual qualities – the ability to think analytically, strategically and creatively – and emotional ones, including self-awareness, empathy and humility.
“Great leadership begins with being a whole human being and I meet far more women with this blend of qualities than I do men.”
Schwartz is backed up by a study published in the Harvard Business Review in which 7 300 leaders were rated by their peers, supervisors and direct reports.
Women scored higher in 12 of 16 key skills – not just developing others, building relationships, collaborating and practicing self-development, but also taking initiative, driving for results and solving problems and analysing issues.
Value through diversity
Rosemary Grant, who runs the Women in Leadership programme alongside De Wet, adds, “Accessing the knowledge and skills women possess undoubtedly helps businesses capitalise on the opportunities a more diverse workplace and talent pool offers, as women senior executives turn personal leadership practice into value for their organisations.”