Women’s leadership

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What can an organization do to help women capitalize and develop their strengths?

For the same position, compared to men, women still seem to face many challenges in getting promoted, especially for management positions. But women have also brought about many changes in the business world, and they can do so much more.

With this in mind, Susan Heathfield interviewed Susan Lucas-Conwell, Global Operations Manager at Great Place to Work. As a business leader, Susan provides her perspective on how to create and maintain a corporate culture that will drive business success. She is also an expert on how women can thrive in leadership positions in companies.

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Susan Heathfield: What are the biggest challenges women face in the workplace?

Susan LucasConwell: In the workplace, women face many of the same challenges as men, such as work-life balance, raising children, and the pressure of many responsibilities and other jobs.

The gaps specific to women are often unfair in terms of wages. Women receive only 73% of the salary of men in the same position. Discrimination is still present in many workplaces, sexual harassment is still present and senior executives apparently not intended for women.

There are very few women in leadership positions. UC Davis conducted a study in 2011 of California’s 400 largest companies. This study revealed that only 9.7% of seats on boards of directors or in management positions are held by women. 34% of the results showed that there were no women on their boards and that none of the companies studied had a woman on the board. Moreover, no company has a board of directors or management that allows for gender balance between men and women.

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Heathfield: How can women overcome these challenges?

Lucas Conwell: Whether perceived or real, women leaders sometimes feel pressured to conform to the male leadership model and if they accept this pressure, they will have to sacrifice their personal strength and abilities.

Interesting professions

The first step to overcoming any challenge is awareness. Once she knows that, she can rely on her emotional intelligence. She is also aware of the need to fill this vacancy with the right person.

Women can overcome this by staying true to and exercising innate strengths (eg creativity and collaboration) in their day-to-day approach to work and overcoming the inevitable obstacles. Women tend to take the lead in a more collaborative and interactive style, which often enhances teamwork among employees. Build and inspire a higher level of engagement for women to achieve their business goals.


Heathfield: What are the benefits of having women on the board?

Lucas Conwell: Primarily, women can balance a board. Simply put, women have different life experiences and will therefore have different perspectives. This perspective can broaden and deepen the leader’s vision, helping companies overcome market challenges.

Moreover, the fact that women are in leadership positions also helps to increase profits. According to a recent Catalyst.org study, Fortune 500 companies with 3 or more women on the board of directors than other companies will have a 53% higher return on equity, a 42% higher return on sales and a return on investment by 66%. However, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, female executives make up only 6% of the number of executives at the top 100 tech companies.

Heathfield: How can women leverage their perspectives in the workplace?

Lucas Conwell: Women need to identify their strengths, understand what they can do for the company, then their voice will definitely carry weight. So, women, talk, talk and contribute. This can be a challenge for women. Therefore, it is important to find a community within their organization – mentors, role models and groups of female managers – who can navigate the business.

Heathfield: How can organizations recruit, retain and develop female leaders?

Lucas Conwell: At the best companies, they always focus on recruiting, retaining and developing female leaders. It was not only the right decision, but also a very wise decision. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to recruiting, retaining and developing employees.

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What matters is what the company can offer candidates. In addition to childcare and maternity plans, the female employee mentoring and development network is also extremely important. Finally, an organization that truly cares about female employees will retain female talent. We find that companies with policies and schemes that guarantee equality between women and men are the most successful.

We encourage organizations to pay attention to creating a gender-neutral environment. To do this, they must first really understand what the women in the organization want and expect from them. So what do women want? For some, this may mean choosing flexible work arrangements or work sharing. For others, it may be group work and mentoring.

Some of the best organizations have women’s task forces that they can tap into to better understand what women need and their strengths. If women are not staying, it is important to know why and what can be changed to make them stay longer. Once this is determined, the next step is to implement policies and programs to measure its effectiveness.

Heathfield: What changes do you foresee for female leaders in the workplace over the next 5-10 years??

Lucas Conwell: When flexibility in terms of time and place of work is applied, we will have a more equal number of men and women in management positions.

And celebrities like Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Why Can’t Women Have It All,” will change the rules of work for both men and women. But it also depends on how everyone defines it.

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Heathfield: How can we encourage more women to enter well-paid positions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics?

Lucas Conwell: We need to approach this question from two angles. First, much research has shown the value of women’s work in these fields. As a mother of girls, in my experience, we need to encourage their natural curiosity and interest in dynamic programs and activities in these areas.

However, we must also be role models. We must commend the women who have managed to hold such well-paying jobs so that young girls have role models. Today, we have more women in CEO roles at technology companies than ever before. Usually Yahoo and IBM.

However, we still need to increase the number of women in middle management positions. Hopefully this number will grow and also help them move quickly into positions such as mentors, leaders, role models for young girls.

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