I continue to chew on the Women in the Workplace study recently released by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company. It predicts that it will take 100 years to reach gender parity in corporate America’s C-suite, if we stay at the same slow rate of progress of the last three years.
I personally don’t think it will take another 100 years. It can’t. The stakes are too high in today’s ultra-competitive, lightning-speed market. Corporations (or any institution, for that matter) can’t afford to continue marginalizing 50% of the world’s talent pool. Leaders with brains, guts—and yes, a good gut-feel—aren’t plentiful enough.
“If women—who account for half the world’s working-age population—do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer,” says McKinsey. In its Power of Parity study, McKinsey estimates that if women were to play an identical role in the world’s labor markets as men, “as much as $28 trillion, or 26 percent, could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.”
Clearly, it’s just plain smart business to make best and highest use of your talent pool.
And to make best and highest use is to draw upon—and enhance—the strengths in your team. To me, that means embracing the power of the masculine and the power of the feminine in ourselves. It’s not about plumbing. It’s about how we’re wired and how those wires are tapped.
Do women have an intuitive nature that encourages inclusion and collaboration? Some do. So do some men. Do men inspire confidence because of their firm and authoritative manner? Certainly some do—as do many women I admire.
Being a woman with a COO title has its up and downs. I gather that clients and colleagues sometimes expect to see a man in my job. My most valuable ally is our CEO, Ian McKelvie. He works hard to ensure that all voices and perspectives are heard and draws on the strengths of his team, regardless of gender or title.
“I work consciously to bring out, rather than shut down, discounted voices and opinions,” says Ian. “Whether it’s in meetings with my team or in facilitating a room full of corporate leaders, the job is to ensure all perspectives are heard and valued.”
I learn from Ian, I learn from my colleagues—male and female—and I learn from leaders I admire. To name a few:
- Sara Blakely Spanx: From ride greeter at Disney to becoming the first female billionaire to join the Giving Pledge. I love her passion and drive.
- Richard Branson: Virgin’s CEO is always pushing the barriers, whether to have more women CEOs or sending us all to space! I find him inspirational.
- Christopher Flett: A self-acknowledged reformed Alpha Male, he now spends his time working with professional women. He doesn’t muck around when it comes to gender, he’s a huge advocate of women at the C-level.
- My Mum! From as early as I can remember she has constantly showed me the power of strength, love, kindness, grit and hard work. She has picked me up, brushed me off and pushed me back out there many times.
One hundred years away from this supposed gender parity in corporations, it still takes a lot of grit and determination for women to succeed. I’ve found it helps to be ready to adapt into various roles; to be a sponge and learn from peers and leaders. As women, we need to be confident and stand up for what we believe in. Support one another. Do our homework and be prepared.
(But not prepared with cupcakes. Keep your baking hobbies at home…)
Learn about the BECAUZ Women in Leadership program.