“To love what you do and feel that it matters—how could anything be more fun?” ~ Katherine Graham, CEO Washington Post.
In the last few years, there has been definite change (albeit slow) in the rise of women through the ranks to management status. What is interesting is the effect that the promotion of women to positions of authority has had on teams and companies in general. The consensus is that the greater number of women managers in a company, the better the company is seen to perform, with distinctive advantages coming to the fore.
While there is a distinct track of positive returns, the number of women at the top remains low even today in 2019 – less than 25%. What is clear, is that many women still find it hard to advance through the ranks to higher positions of responsibility. The study showed that women tend to stick in a job much longer than a man, rather than effecting a swift climb through the corporate pipeline.
The positives for women
• Women are not easy risk-takers but they do have more patience and resilience than men in many situations. This is important for decision-making and collaborative engagement.
• Because they conform to teamwork better, they have a unique advantage in managing teams and leveraging the best performance out of people.
• A greater level of emotional intelligence gives them skill at reading people and handling issues of conflict. This is vital for constructive teamwork and smooth delivery of projects.
• Based on ‘Women Matter’ research by McKinsey, women leaders tend to use five important types of leadership behaviours that improve organisational performance more often than men: participative decision-making; developing people; delivering on expectations and rewards; acting as a role model, and providing inspiration.
Areas still in contention
Issues that continue to plague the changes necessary to bring women in management from 25% and closer to 50% seem to lie in three particular areas:
• There is still an unconscious gender bias in the workplace; men’s ideas seem to have more influence than women’s purely because of prejudice.
• Secondly, marriage duties are still seen as a woman’s priority – and having babies is considered disruptive to workflow. In addition, household duties are generally poorly divided, leaving women with less time to focus on the job, or put in the necessary extra time to be noticed.
• And thirdly – and one that must be given attention – is the fact that fewer women nominate themselves for promotion than men; climbing the corporate ladder seems less enticing than maintaining a steady balance between both work and domestic responsibilities.
Women taking the lead
The place where women succeed the most is often in the start-up arena where they are able to dictate, direct and manage their own business. Nevertheless, there are those who have made their mark in many industries – and the quiet, determined growth of women in business is impacting daily, blasting through glass ceilings, and now travelling successfully through the business stratosphere.
• Annemarie van Wyk, owner of Jade Jewellery, has grown the business started by her mother, through her philosophy of uplifting and enriching the lives of others. She believes her success lies not only in producing unique, truly creative pieces of jewellery but also in making an impact in peoples’ lives with real, profound change, one person at a time rather than trying to fix the world at once.
• Wendy Luhabe, Chair of the Women Private Equity Fund. A South African businesswoman who has pioneered many initiatives to provide economic empowerment to women. Wendy got her first exercise in social entrepreneurship in 1995, when she founded Bridging the Gap. Since then she has gone on to found Women Investment Portfolio Holdings (Wiphold). She has been listed as one of the 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs in the world.
• Katherine Graham, CEO Washington Post, had to rise to the occasion on the death of her husband. “What I essentially did was to put one foot in front of the other, shut my eyes, and step off the edge”. That courage led her to become the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
• Mary Kay Ash, Founder Mary Kay Cosmetics. After winning numerous business awards in the sales arena, Mary Kay began her “dream business”. One month before the company’s launch, she lost her husband, but her philosophy endured, “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”
• Khanyi Dhlomo, Communicator Extraordinaire. A radio newsreader at 18, television newsreader at 20, and editor of True Love at 22. After this scintillating success, she moved to Paris to run a South African touring campaign, before studying at Harvard. After returning to South Africa she launched Destiny, a magazine that combined business content and lifestyle. Since then she has become a director of the Foschini Retail Group.
• Maria Ramos, CEO ABSA Group. After university, she primarily worked in finance and banking, taught economics and served as an economist. But her appointment as CEO of Transnet saw her transforming the country’s economy through the reorganising of this debt-ridden company. As a result, she was ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the most powerful women in international business for four years in a row.
Inspired? Want to know more? These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Find more inspiration at these links: