‘Why can’t a woman be more like a man – ‘Women are irrational, that’s all there is to that! Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags omeprazole dosage. They’re nothing but exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening and infuriating hags!’ Professor Higgins (My Fair Lady)

Really?  Well, I heard a loud cheer and raised glasses from females (and I am sure many males!) around the globe in recognition of Inga Beale’s appointment this year, as the first female chief executive in Lloyd’s of London’s 325-year history.

Inga has indeed joined the growing band of professional women who have conquered some of the barriers women encounter in their careers and rise to the top –  congratulations Inga!

So, what are the qualities / traits that a female can bring to such a male dominated industry?  Are we curious to see the impact a year ahead?

Recent research by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio highlights ‘how women (and the men who think like them) will rule the future.  Among the 64,000 people surveyed in 13 nations, 2/3rds said the world would be a better place if men thought more like women.  The research discovered that it was time for something better than the ‘winner takes all masculine approach of getting things done’.

Research throughout the decades, including Gerzema’s and D’Antonio’s global findings, support that values traditionally associated with women create more effective leaders in today’s society.  Harvard Business Review ‘women’s leadership forum’ reported that ‘female leaders bested their male peers on traits like empathy, influence and conflict management and, self-awareness is rated higher on competences for outstanding leadership.

We have experienced these qualities in many female leaders around the globe and research supports that women do indeed lead differently than men and, according to Eagly & Johnson (2003) ‘gender and leadership styles’ bring ‘more participative and transformational management styles; adaptability and optimism.

In support of Vince Cable’s goal for FTSE 100 co’s to have 25% female representatives on board by 2015  – what do organisations and individuals need to focus on?  What is holding us back?  HBR September 2013 http://hbr.org/2013/09/women-rising-the-unseen-barriers/ comment on the ‘unseen barriers’ – although many organisations are setting aspirational goals for the proportion of women in leadership roles ‘Organizations inadvertently undermine this process when they advise women to proactively seek leadership roles without also addressing policies and practices that communicate a mismatch between how women are seen and the qualities and experiences people tend to associate with leaders’

From my own experience of mentoring women in management – both in the UK and abroad – the key link always seems to be ‘lack of encouragement from others to aspire to senior positions and lack of self-promotion’.  In the words of Zenger and Folkman ‘one of the areas in which I observe women not developing a strategic view is the advancement of their own careers – women tend to put all their energy into simply doing the best possible job in their current position’.

Inga herself has commented in the past that ‘hard work alone will not get women to the top – we need to focus more on boosting image and exposure’  Her philosophy is ‘getting the noisy people to shut up to allow others to open up’ and concentrating on the PIE factor – Performance, Image and Exposure’.

My question to you is ‘what can we do to support women and organisations alike’  Join us for a further discussion.

Let’s make 2014 a significant year for women in leadership positions

‘wouldn’t it be loverly’!