Over the last year I have run several women leaders panels, whether as part of women in travel or more general ones. Needless to say on every occasion I experienced animated discussions about the why and why not of women leadership.
Reflecting on the fact that I have now run several of these panels/events across different sectors I have found a number of commonalities that I think are worth while sharing:
1)When women get together in a room to discuss career related issues emotions run high.
When the curtain eventually draws on any such debate the one thing that continued to linger on is the incredibly high level of emotions charging the room. These emotions span from a strong sense of empowerment and opportunity, to sisterhood and a feeling that we are all there to share, learn from each other and celebrate our achievements and just as well, our mistakes. I jsometimes get the impression that women are being told to hide their true emotions, as if they were a bad thing, something to be almost ashamed of, especially in a professional environment. Yet, far from it, emotions are a positive force for movement (emotions, from the Latin verb’ movere’ , to move) and they are natural, ancestral forces that push us to act, originally on the all important, survival ‘fight or flight’ question. So emotions also enable us to analyse, process and review information. If we are able to positively harnessing emotions we can drive actions and ignite our thinking process. Furthermore, I believe that natural, positive, emotional responses such as laughter can engage the hearts and the minds of people and really show our authenticity.
2) There is one critical question…and several possible answers.
I always ask the one all important question: Why are there not enough women in leadership roles?
In response to that I get a range of answers:
– It is women’s own lack of confidence, not wanting to negotiate, not asking.
– Women do not buy into the senior lifestyle, it is about work life balance and ethical choices too
– It is a mix of obvious and hidden biases in organisations.
– People recruit people who are similar to them especially if they are in a hurry.
– Not enough mentoring, sponsorship, networking.
– Not enough role models and ambassadors.
– There are policies, but practices are different, companies do not walk the talk.
3) And what about the solution?
It seems that top leadership and most immediately line management is critical to finding a solution.
Line managers must encourage and develop the next generation of talented women, put them forward for more challenging roles, make them visible to the organisational eye. Unfortunately it is often the opposite and women get sidelined.
So here we are, AD 2015 still talking about female leadership as a thing of wonder. While I do not wish to sound disparaging, I am starting to feel rather impatient… .so let’s hope that the year 2016 will bring further progress and opportunities on the way to gender parity and equal opportunities for all!