ATD Blog

Gender Inclusivity Is Key in a Post-COVID-19 Business World

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

One thing we know coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic: The world will not look the same on the other side.

As we look to the future, we know we’re all going to have to rethink our business strategies. We’re going to need more innovation, new perspectives, creative leadership, and courage. To do that, we will need to call on every leader to step up. Inclusion and diversity will be key.

Stronger, more inclusive leadership pipelines are essential to help companies find fresh, new perspectives and wisdom. Traditionally, women have been left out of these pipelines. But moving forward, gender diversity is going to be even more important.

Companies are going to need to be stronger and, in most cases, work with fewer resources. They’re going to need to unleash new capabilities and seek out leaders who think and operate differently, and gender diversity will be key.

Leadership Lacks Gender Diversity

DDI’s Executive Leadership Outlook 2020 revealed more than half of organizations didn’t assess a single female candidate when looking for their next chief executive officer. It also found that when only one woman was in the CEO pool, she was never selected for the role. More so, female candidates comprised only 25 percent of executive candidates and 19 percent of C-level candidates.

This is troubling because data shows that organizational diversity and female leadership produces favorable results.


The Global Leadership Forecast revealed that organizations with above-average gender diversity are 1.4 times as likely to have sustained profitable growth. But what does above-average gender diversity mean? It means women comprise at least 30 percent of the company’s overall employee roster and at least 20 percent of senior leadership.

Leaders in organizations that have more gender diversity are:

  • 1.5 times more likely to work across organizational boundaries and create synergies
  • twice as likely to collaborate to create new solutions and multiple perspectives to determine success
  • 1.7 times more likely to have leadership strength across their organizations
  • more likely to experiment and embrace failure in pursuit of innovation.

How Will Female Leaders Guide Us Through the COVID-19 Crisis?

As a member of the Women’s Business Collaborative, I participated in a webinar during which Carly Fiorina, the first woman to head a Fortune 25 company, Hewlett-Packard, suggested that “tough times reveal character.”


They reveal the character of a company’s culture and leaders. She went on to say that leading in a crisis necessitates service leadership, problem solving, collaboration, empathy, and leading from a position of humility and courage.

Women leaders often tend to be strong in these areas, particularly in showing empathy. As an organizational psychologist and the head of a leadership consultancy, I know a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone differently. When uncertainty, fear, and other emotions run high, our associates look to their leaders to address practical business needs, personal needs, and emotions. During these times, soft skills are extremely important, especially authentic listening, empathy, and understanding.

During his keynote in San Diego at the 2018 ATD International Conference & Exposition, former President Barack Obama referenced former President John F. Kennedy’s quote, “There is no problem that man cannot solve,” but lightheartedly added, “by listening to women, primarily, or so I’ve observed.” His comment elicited applause from the audience.

I'll be speaking at the ATD Virtual Conference in June. I invite women and men to join me for my session, Amplify: Power Moves for Women and Their Allies to Ignite Impact, and the Q&A afterward. We will discuss how women can ignite their own impact as well as how everyone can become better mentors, leaders, co-workers, and parents to this generation of women and the next.

Leadership is always important—but even more so in times of crisis.

See you soon virtually!

About the Author

Tacy M. Byham, PhD, is CEO of Development Dimensions International (DDI). She is co-author of the book Your First Leadership Job: How Catalyst Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others.

1 Comment
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I agree with Tacy that there need to be more women in leadership roles especially during this health crisis but unfortunately I also think that there is a greater risk to losing female leaders as well. The women tends to be the primary caregiver at home with childcare and even home schooling now. It is important to build in safeguards at work to protect women leaders. Ammerman & Groysberg point this out inter HBR article Why the Crisis is Putting Companies at Risk of Losing Female Talent
This has been going on for so long with so many reports like this. I don't think this about the women's role as much as it is a cultural mindset and the control of power. It is deeply internalized misogyny and not enough people in power taking responsibility to reverse it.
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