The celebration of International Women’s Day was on the 8th March 2022
On Friday that week, I had the great pleasure of speaking to a group of very inspiring women. The Scottish ‘Women in Housing’ Group asked me to look at Female leadership. The premise…
‘Over the course of the pandemic, many articles were dedicated to the response of the world’s female leaders to the coronavirus outbreak compared to their male counterparts. This raised questions of whether there was a distinctly female type of leadership. In this session, we will consider whether the “female leader” is a myth or a necessary re-assessment of the qualities of leadership.’
Many of you will remember the plethora of headlines around Female Leadership during covid. This media attention raised questions of whether there was a distinctly female type of leadership emerging in recent times.
It was a fascinating way to look at the subject, international Women’s Day was amazing and I had just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ so to be honest, I was in a bit of female power zone. COME ON!
I thought I’d start by finding the evidence of increased power. I did a bit of digging and to there is no doubt in recent years the influence women have had on the workplace has improved.
The number of CEOs in FTSE100 top companies has increased as well as the number of female board members in those companies. In fact, there are no MALE only boards left in the FTSE 100 today.
There are pockets of near-ish equality. The NHS is a great example where 45% of trusts have female CEOs. And a milestone was reached this year when a women took the Top job in NHS England for the first time in its history.
However, we aren’t anywhere near parity. According to the 2022 Fawcett Sex and Power survey, of the 5,136 positions of power in society women only make up 32%. A ratio of 2:1 male to female. Meaning that just under 1000 (or 919 to be precise) women are missing from the top influential roles in our country.
A funny aside, there are more status to animals in the UK than there are dedicated named women. Now I know we love our pets, but really?
After the research I went onto look at leadership characteristics and traits. Many classical leadership traits are male orientated characteristic such as….
Physical vanity & stamina/ Intelligence / Action orientated judgement/ Eager for responsibility/ Task Competence/ Need for achievement/ Motivator/ Courage and resolution/ Trust/ Decisive/ Self Confident/ Assertive/ Adaptive (Gardeners Leadership Attributes)
If you think about it this isn’t surprizing as most of our recent historical leadership role models have been male. But when Kouzes and Prosner looked at what followers wanted to see in their leaders we see more of the following
Honest/ Forward-looking/ Inspirational/ Competent/ Fair-minded / Supportive/ Broadminded Intelligent/ Straightforward/ Dependable
Many of these traits are what we’d describe as more feminine characteristics.
Looking at the Top 10 Leadership Styles, I am not sure you can put a dominate gender on any of them. What do you think? I’ve worked many leaders across these styles from both sexes.
Laissez-Faire (Delegative) Leadership
Finally, I decided to look at some of the recent leaders we hold in great esteem. Mother Teresa, Winston Churchill, Ghandi, Thatcher, Jacinta, Boris Johnston etc How did our great leaders lead? When were they at their best? When didn’t they do so well?
In doing this I realised that we have both male and female leaders that are brilliant leaders. We also have male and female leaders that are dangerous. In the presentation we explored the examples to try to come to consensus.
In conclusion, I put forward an argument that the rise of female leadership success during covid wasn’t just about being a female. Yes, as a society we needed the more feminine characteristic to make us feel supported, loved and cared for. (Covid required more nurturing characteristics to come to the fore. If you think about it, and look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, our basic security was being threatened.)
But I went on to suggested that the best leaders (male or female) are authentic and transformational. I believe the rise of the female leader during covid was not a gender issue. It was more about sociality needed at the time and our best leaders being about to provide that. We needed and still need leadership based on values, trust, ethics and integrity, care and support. Women tend to be more naturally inclined to those traits, but that doesn’t mean our best male leaders don’t and can’t demonstrate them.
Are you living to your values, being authentic, inspiring your teams, caring for your business, being humble?
More on those aspects of leadership next week.
If you would like to see the full presentation or want some of your leadership to hear it, give me a shout I am sure we can arrange something.