How many world-class female business leaders do you know? If you follow and keep updated with the latest business news, you might be able to mention quite a few for sure. It is widely-known and established fact that there are fewer women than men at the top leadership. Even in 2016 Fortune 500 companies, women hold only 4.2 percent CEO positions in 500 biggest companies.
While women and men might start their career from the same scratch, why do women remain underrepresented in senior leadership?
Glass ceiling is the metaphor often used to describe the invisible barriers that keep women from rising to higher levels of certain hierarchy. In the business world, this term can be seen from the fact only few number of women are actually able to achieve highest levels of leadership within an organisation. Glass ceiling is a global phenomenon. While half of the earth’s population are women, apparently, they do not have enough representations in the executive levels to express their distinctive voices.
However, while gender equality still needs a long way to go, it seems that women in Europe and the U.S are better represented than those in Asia. Based on McKinsey & Company’s report Women Matter: An Asian Perspective, the proportion of women holding on vital position in corporate boards and executive committees in Asian companies, is strikingly low when compared to women in Europe and the U.S. In Asia, women make up for just 6 percent seats on corporate boards and 8 percent on executive committee.
Whereas, their peers in Europe make up for 17 percent and 10 percent, while women in the U.S earn 15 percent and 14 percent respectively. Breaking down the statistics, there are actually variations in the proportion of women in top positions across Asia. Hong Kong holds the highest ratio, with 9 percent women representation on the boards and 11 percent on executive committee.
On the other hand, Japan is at the bottom place with only 2 percent women representation on boards and 1 percent on the executive committee. Unfortunately, even the highest (let alone the lowest) percentage of women representation in Asian’s C-suite positions is far from satisfying, when it comes to achieving gender equality. So do women make worse leaders than men? The answer is definitely a ‘No’.
Contrary to popular beliefs held about women being bad risk-takers, research conducted by McKinsey & Company entitled Women as a Valuable Asset demonstrates companies with more women on corporate boards see higher return on equity (41 percent) and EBIT (56 percent) ahead of average industry.
See: Increase of Women in Management Positions in Asia, But Lags behind in Japan
If you need more reasons on why more women should be joining the C-suite soon, here they are:
Compared to men, women have better communication skills. Women are specialists when it comes to building new network and cultivating new relationships. Naturally, women demonstrate better ability to adapt themselves within particular environment, develop trusts, as well as interpret certain situation and complex gesture. No wonder that women outperform men in the area of social relations.
Some people say that women are like an open book. They are highly flexible to new challenges and accessible for anyone who needs them. Women tend to be more open minded than men, which makes it easier for them to adjust themselves in an unfamiliar environment and new faces around them.
It might be obvious that women have higher levels of empathy than their male counterparts. Empathy is one of characteristics that contributes to effective leadership. Since women are naturally gifted with this attribute, more of them should be rising to the top boards.
Women are known for their warm and kind personalities. Rather than doing everything by themselves, they always seek for working with others. Women love the idea of sharing ideas to find the right solutions towards an issue. Meanwhile, a leader should be able to fairly give every team member an opportunity to speak up their minds. This trait which makes women great leaders, are an ability to see and support everyone’s potentials.
Having more women in the C-suite circle means, you have different perspectives to look at particular issues. Women pay attention to details more than men. When faced upon certain problems, they will look even at the slightest details, analyse, and make projection about several options. This process makes them better at making more precise decision.
Many studies have showed that billions of women will enter the global workforce in the near future. It is about time for business leaders to redesign their organisation hierarchy and let more women to claim their C-suite position. If companies keep ignoring gender balance in top managerial positions, actually it was not women’s loss. The truth is, companies will lose out on new perspectives and the advantages of women’s potential contribution in the marketplace.
Read also: Sexism and Gender-Discrimination Continue to Hold Back Women in the Workplace