Principal & Founder of The Communication Strategist, Helping You Lead from Every Seat You Sit In
Women and men have an equal desire for power, contrary to the belief of many. Yet, according to a survey conducted by Korn Ferry, women still only hold 25% of the five critical C-suite positions. The general preference for top corporate C-suite executives is still white males. It can be difficult to process the incongruence between the stereotype that women are communal with their desire and interest in power.
The fundamental desire for power looks different for each gender. In my experience, women often want power in order to enact change, but society can paint ambitious women who seek power or have it to be aggressive and uncooperative. The caricature that is depicted is someone who lacks feelings or seeks to lord power over others in a self-serving manner. However, the research doesn’t support the power-hungry narrative that many choose to associate with ambitious women looking to accelerate their ascent.
You cannot lead impactfully or effectively without some form of power. In order to lead from the front and from every seat we sit in, it requires our voice to be heard. As women continue to acquire power in the top ranks of Corporate America, the way they wield it and maintain it ostensibly bears a different flavor compared to their male counterparts.
When women ascend into powerful roles where they have the ability to change the game and “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg would say, we see transformation as well as dollars. In my experience, women have collaboration and relationship cultivation in their blood. We are practically wired to connect, then lead.
In school, we learned about the hunter and gatherer days — a prime example of how women lead differently. Women stayed behind and managed the village, the elderly, the children and each other regardless of how long the hunters were away. The spirit of this community-style leadership shows up at work in the form of thinking of the bigger picture with vision, leveraging effective communication skills, implementing processes and procedures that consider the entire company as well as utilizing motivational tools and techniques that incite transformation of the human resources doing the work across the organization.
Having just 30% of C-suite roles occupied by women can lead to as much as a 15% boost in profitability according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics. So why not have a commitment across the board to foster power moves? It allows women to leave “as much glass on the floor as possible as we shatter every glass ceiling above us,” per Star Jones in her TEDx talk “The myths that hold back women at the workplace.” It is clear that it pays for women to acquire, wield and maintain power in the workplace.
Power is like an amplifier. Nothing discloses someone’s character more than giving them power, says Adam Grant in his audiobook Power Moves. Amplifying the voices of women, especially women of color, has the potential to transform how we experience work — a place where we spend 90,000 hours over our lifetime. When women and women of color can be positioned for performance to use their voice to say what needs to be said, there are inherent benefits. We begin to see change.
The flavor of power shifts with women at the helm because of better decision making. When women and women of color rise into powerful positions, they offer a diversity of perspectives which provoke creativity and innovation. According to Pew Research Center’s Women and Leadership survey, 34% of American workers say that women have an edge over men when it comes to being honest and ethical, while just 3% believe men are better. This concept of gender inclusiveness — for organizations that embrace it — is a welcomed change that pays.
Women at the top also lead to greater productivity and enhanced collaboration. The girl power movement isn’t just for the sake of seeing people who look like me at the top. It makes dollars and cents. The research proves that when women take the lead, in addition to more money being made, there’s a decrease in sexual harassment, better mentoring opportunities and more strategic problem-solving thanks to the diversity of thought.
In the United States, women represent 46.9% of the workforce, so it makes sense to see themselves reflected in the top roles of whatever company that employs them. As we continue to experience a more diverse workforce, it also makes logical sense to see increased diversity at the top. Women change the flavor of power when given the opportunity and are often viewed as more competent leaders than their male counterparts. In my expert and researched opinion, I suggest we follow the money. With an increase in female leadership in any company or board, there is an increase in financial results.
I believe we are ready for a flavor change when it comes to power. The collective research over the last decade implies that women would be best equipped to lead us through and past these uncertain times we live in. And we are primed to lead the transformation of work as everyone knows it.
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