The studies are in, and they prove that, time and again, women are good for business. Companies who have female leaders are more respected, and women entrepreneurs make more return on their investments than their male counterparts. Why, then, are women so underrepresented in corporate leadership?
Let’s look more closely at women entrepreneurs, why women are good for business, and the paradoxes and stereotypes that are still holding women back in the business world. More importantly, let’s examine the glass ceiling, and what we need to do to shatter the ceiling once and for all.
Women Leaders Are Good for Business
You don’t have to look far to find highly successful female entrepreneurs to look up to and emulate. There’s Whitney Wolfe Herd, who founded the female-oriented dating app Bumble, which empowers women to take control of their relationships. And Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisburg, who established theSkimm, a newsletter geared towards millennial women. Those are just a few of many such female entrepreneurs.
In fact, it has been proven that women entrepreneurs are better at business than men. The Columbus, OH, chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ (NAWBO) conducted a study that showed that women-owned startups generated almost 80 cents for each dollar they invested, versus only 30 cents for male-owned startups.
Additionally, when a study was performed pitting women business leaders against men in 16 competencies that make good leaders, women scored higher than men in 12 of them. What’s more, women outscored men the most in the “taking initiative” trait, which is commonly looked upon as a male trait. One possible explanation for this is women are often put in situations in which they must complete tasks to sustain themselves, and when women are in the business world, this survival trait displays itself as initiative.
Why are women so good for business? There are many possible reasons, but to name one, women generally start businesses with less capital so they are more careful when spending money and are less willing to take risks.
As for the corporate landscape, companies that have women in leadership roles have increased profits, are more innovative, and are better respected than companies who have only men leaders. Gender diversity just makes for a better workplace, but it’s also been proven that men tend to take action while women are more analytical, and having both mindsets in a business environment helps a business succeed.
Despite all of that, women still face stereotypes and paradoxes in the workplace that needs to end if women are going to reach their highest potential in the business world.
Stereotypes and Paradoxes Need to End
Due to outdated female stereotypes, women in the workplace face many paradoxes that men just don’t have to deal with:
- Women are expected to be friendly and soft-spoken, while leadership positions require assertiveness and toughness. Women who show assertiveness are often scorned.
- According to stereotype, women are “supposed to” be caring, while leadership roles require them to be demanding. When being so, women are often faced with hostility.
- Because women are traditionally caregivers, they are viewed as approachable when others are having problems, but women leaders often have to maintain their distance.
Women also feel more stressed in business due to the “stereotype threat.” This occurs when women realize that there is a stereotype of them doing worse on various tasks than men, and they become scared of supporting that stereotype. Due to that fear, they may not think as clearly and their stress levels are dramatically increased.
There are ways women can reduce that anxiety so they can perform better, however. They can practice deep breathing techniques, get more sleep, and increase their activity levels, for example. Women who make these practices routine in their lives can reduce stress so they can perform at their best.
How We Can Close the Gap and Break the Glass Ceiling?
Despite all of the evidence shown above that women are capable leaders, there is still a gigantic gap between women and men leaders in the “real world,” though women have been slowly decreasing the gap:
- In 2015, 20% of U.S. senators were women. That number has increased to 25%.
- In 1995, less than 10% of board members on the Fortune 500 were women. Now it is over 20%.
- 18% of U.S. states now how female governors, compared to 10% just 5 years ago.
While these advancements are undoubted, there is still way too much disparity between men and women in leadership positions. We need to do much more, as a society, to make real change to break the glass ceiling for good:
- Businesses must recruit more women from the get-go. There needs to be meticulous, conscious planning in place for businesses to hire more women, with their sights on making them leaders in the future.
- Businesses need to research to determine why women are not in leadership positions and, when the problem is determined, to fix it.
- Businesses need to seek women and recruit them from where they tend to congregate. These places include women’s business groups and colleges.
- Businesses need to form women’s groups in workplaces so women can gather and discuss the unique challenges they face. By doing this, they will be better supported. These groups, in turn, can express things that the business can do to empower them.
Women leaders have proven themselves to be good entrepreneurs and great for business productivity and image, but they are still held by gender-specific stereotypes and a glass ceiling that few can breakthrough. With deliberate, calculated planning on behalf of businesses, however, women can finally gain the opportunities that they rightfully deserve.
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