The tide is turning in terms of the number women in leadership roles, particularly within areas such as healthcare and education. However, a recently published UK Government-backed review (Hampton-Alexander) highlighted that we still have some way to go in addressing gender balance in the boardroom. For example, the following comments were overheard by the team carrying out the review and are just some of the reasons given by some FTSE companies for not appointing women to company boards:
· “Women don't fit in, don't want the hassle, and struggle with “complex issues””
· “I don't think women fit comfortably into the board environment”
· “There aren't that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board - the issues covered are extremely complex”
So, while the review’s interim report found that things are improving, some firms seem to be dragging their feet and are only paying lip-service to diversity.
Only this month, 50 years after the first women joined the New York stock exchange, it finally has its first female president in Stacey Cunningham. The Chief Operating Officer’s promotion to the top job puts her in the same league as Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman, meaning two of the biggest and highest-profile US stock exchanges are now being run by women.
It’s also important to note that closer to home, our own stock exchange, The International Stock Exchange (TISE), has been run by a woman for the past three years. Fiona Le Poidevin is the current Chief Executive Officer and a Director of the Company and has been in post since 2015. Her role includes strategy formulation, overseeing the day-to-day operation of the company, providing leadership and strategic direction to the team, and focusing on opportunities to grow the business, both from existing streams and through the introduction of new products and service offerings.
With this in mind, is it possible to establish the common characteristics that highly successful female leaders possess? I think it is, with common characteristics including:
A leader has to be confident, starting with self-confidence. People love confident leaders because it gives us a feeling of trust, and everyone wants to follow a leader they can trust.
Highly successful leaders are creative. Creatively allows all hugely successful leaders to tap into their potential by creating completely new products, or creating a personal brand.
Humble and Helpful
Many great leaderscommunicate to others in an appreciative, respectful way, with meaning and purpose. Their purpose of being humble and helpful is always marked by giving their colleagues a sense of hope and inspiration.
Everyone faces difficulties in life but is an individual’s and leader’s capability of coping with difficulties in an emotionally intelligent way that makes the difference. Successful leaders have learned how to cope with their emotions, making them emotionally mature and intelligent.
Despite failures and losses, successful leaders focus upon staying optimistic. They believe in themselves, and in the work they do, know how to ask for help and support from people around them, cooperating and negotiating their way to success.
So, with more and more evidence showing that gender diversity on executive teams strongly correlates with profitability and value creation, ask yourself, is your organisation taking gender diversity seriously enough?