This year has seen women grab headlines across every sector in every corner of the globe. South Korea swore in its first female president (approximately 17 countries have women as head of government/state or both) and the corporate world saw many firsts in the form of Marissa Mayer.
Yet very little changed in the business world; globally only 24% of women hold positions in senior management, only 20% of senior management positions in the US are filled by women, and in Ireland this is 21% despite women accounting for more than 35% and 32% of the workforce in these countries.
Ekaterina Walter (Partner and CMO at Branderati) takes a look at some of the characteristics and traits that have united the most prominent female leaders, and helped get them to the top of their professions.
Effective role models
A recent CNN opinion piece suggests that it is the prominence of such women as Sheryl Sandberg that inspires others to be like them:
“We can create more Sandbergs by surrounding ourselves with confident, outspoken women.”
“Though successful women are often prone to credit luck for their success, it is mostly hard work and perseverance that brings women to the top of their field,” says Lucy Marcus, CEO, non-exec board director, prof at IE Business School,
Arianna Huffington cites lack of confidence as “a killer to success for women. In order to advance their careers, women need to be comfortable seeing themselves as qualified leaders and risk takers.”
Madeleine Albright said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Many of the current generation of women leaders have credited a good support network in their success, and are now active in encouraging the next generation of women in their field.
Changing the mindset of what is the “right” career for a woman begins early. Women who have a good grounding in technology, math, science, and business–and who are encouraged to take those studies further–are more likely to become the business and political leaders of the future. It isn’t just the book knowledge that counts: Women need to know they can build a career that takes them all the way to the top.
Peer group attitudes shape our perception of “normal.” Many women at the top of their professions cite strong female family members, friends, or peers as a factor in their success, and it’s something they are passing on to their own children, friends, and colleagues.
Mentoring–at all levels
Mentoring is essential to encouraging the female leaders of the future: Identifying and overcoming obstacles to their career progression at the early stages can have a huge effect on their eventual success. This should start in school and be a part of every stage of a woman’s education and training. If you can identify opportunities and encourage women early on then they will be able to fulfill their potential throughout their careers.