I’d love to report that all the hard work funneled into women’s equality in the workplace has paid off. And although we’ve made some progress in the past couple decades with women taking company reins, women-owned firms still disproportionately under contribute to employment (8%) and revenues (4.2%) nationwide. Only 6.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female. And worldwide huge disparities remain, especially in developing countries. Over the past two decades a couple individual gender gaps have decreased but many still exist. Although the quality of life and opportunities for women are changing, they aren’t always for the better.
CLOSING THE GENDER GAP IN SOME AREAS OF LIFE… BUT REGRESSION IN THE WORKFORCE
Women are spending more time in school than men and female literacy is up by 41%. Childbirth related deaths have decreased by 52% and women are living longer. There are 38% more women are in management positions and the gap between male and female lawmakers has closed by 28%. However, the percentage of women participating in the global workforce has fallen, the global gap in pay has only narrowed by 0.2%, and the gap in female to male unemployment has increased…
There are statistics that show that while some women hold executive roles, they are usually in ones that have few responsibilities for the bottom line. These roles, which feed into the CEO position and other top paying management roles, are dominated by males. But more broadly, female workers and entrepreneurs face challenges such as childcare, finding funding for start-ups, fear of failure, and lack of mentors to forge successful enterprises. Women tend to start businesses with less funding and also historically receive less funding from investors.
To answer your question, yes… this is unfortunately largely due to sexism. Whether it’s being taken less seriously as a business leader, receiving less funding, or straight up harassment, the psychological barriers and bias against women make female leadership and entrepreneurship more difficult. Yet there is no evidence that female-led companies perform worse than their male-led counterparts. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
INVESTING IN WOMEN AND WOMEN-LED BUSINESSES
Studies have shown that if workforce participation amongst women and men were more equal, it could drive $28 trillion in growth. That’s the size of the US and China economies combined. So what is it about a larger contribution from women in the workforce and in leadership positions that is so beneficial?
An MIT study set out to discover what characteristics make-up the most effective and successful leadership teams and, in turn, answered this question. They found that the three traits of the most successful teams were – equal contribution from all team members, members scoring higher on a test that measured how well they can read complex emotional states from image of just eyes, and teams in which women outnumbered men. To break it down, these characteristics are: good communication and collaboration, emotional intelligence, and female dominated teams. Successful teams did not always have to be the most intelligent individuals (although it’s advantageous) but they always had these three characteristics.
This information is more important now than ever since leaders and teams with these qualities are considered to be more “generally intelligent” and do better in novel situations or ones that require adaptation to changing circumstances. And has there ever been a time in recent history more than now when humans have had to rapidly adapt to a new norm and thrive in an environment that is so foreign and isolating?
As the Covid-19 pandemic has quickly infiltrated all of our lives to varying degrees, humanity and human connection has never seemed more essential. Although the tragedy and death that has surrounded this global crisis is devastating, maybe the silver lining is a greater focus on unifying humanity and prioritizing physical and mental health over bottom lines.
MILLEANNIALS TAKING OVER THE WORKFORCE AND MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
As millennials now make up half of the US workforce and by 2025 they will comprise 75% of the global workforce, organizations have been pivoting and re-defining who they are and what they stand for because of what this generation is craving from their work life. Millennials put a lot of weight on working for a company that leads with a purpose and a clear mission to make the world a better place. They look for an innovative and collaborative culture, healthy work-life integration, flexible work schedules, reward-based goal setting, and leadership that are committed to employee success. Additionally, these millennials are customers and 88% of consumers now say they are more likely to buy a product from a purpose-driven company than one that is not.
LET’S TALK ALTRUISM…
Corporate responsibility and conscious capitalism are on the rise. Some companies are pursuing social value by donating a percentage of profits to charitable organizations like GlassyBaby or Allevita or having a “buy one, give one” program like TOMS or Bloomfarms. Creating social value through capitalistic organizations is not only improving the world we live in but it is good for business. However, altruism cannot just be a corporate side program in pursuit of greater economic value. A truly socially conscious corporation integrates social value into the heart of its business. They embody a global perspective on creating social value by transforming all businesses activities to support this founding principal. And who better to lead the charge in giving back and driving an inclusive culture? Well, the likes of Kate Spade, Founder of Kate Spade & Company, or Anise Costa, Chief Sustainability Officer of Tiffany & Co Foundation.
FEMALE LEADERSHIP, MILLENNIALS, AND A GLOBAL CRISIS
Female characteristics that have made women successful in certain situations but not always in cut-throat male dominated business environments are collaboration, listening to the needs of others, being role models for the change that they seek, motivating others, and nurturing development. These characteristics have maybe never been more important and powerful than now as our business and global environments are rapidly changing. Women are more inclusive and flexible in their mindset and can get companies moving faster towards their goals. And women-led companies are more likely to have engaged, inspired, and satisfied employees than those led my males.
OPPORTUNITY, DESIRE, AND NECESSITY
Combining the opportunity to drive better results with more female-led organizations, the desire of to work at companies with an altruistic and collaborative culture, and the necessity of our current global environment, it would appear that we have the perfect combination to drive a monumental shift in corporate America and maybe worldwide.
Our current global environment has never needed women more to run the business world. Women’s traits that make them successful are aligning more with what millennials are looking for in an employer and what we need during this global pandemic. A new female-founded, owned, and led business paradigm is ripe for realization.