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Insight

Making the Executive Decision With Female Leaders

Young female execs are not the most common thing on the block, but why not? There are plenty of young men out there taking top positions in companies in their early 20s. In business, STEM, and technology, the lack of female leaders is evident.

The Reality of Women in Senior Positions
We can change the fact that only 31 percent of senior positions in North America are held by women. In 2018, women made up just 10 percent of the C-level executives among Canada’s 100 largest publicly traded corporations. While any progress is good progress, at the current rate it will be at least 2040 before women will occupy even 30 percent of these C-suite and senior positions. If we look at the CEO position specifically, only three of Canada’s top 100 companies had female CEOs in 2019—down 50 percent from 2018—and a new study indicated a mere 72 women for every 100 men are promoted and hired as managers. For women of color and minorities, the numbers are even more dire, with women of color only taking up 4 percent of the C-suite positions we have today.

As Malala Yousufzai said, “I raise up my voice—not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard . . . We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” This could not be truer, and a lot of this responsibility is on the shoulders of current industry leaders. We need to promote progressive thought in our teams. Companies that are gender diverse perform 21 percent better than less-diverse counterparts. As women, we bring new and necessary views, abilities, and leadership styles to the industry. It benefits everyone including shareholders, stakeholders, and the bottom line, so no matter what your view might be, women in C-suite positions are powerful and advantageous.

Empower Women to Reach Senior-Level Positions
Women are more often judged based on their personality and their etiquette, with comments about being more ladylike or not being so abrupt not only hurled at them but given as areas for improvement on performance reviews. Ninety-three percent of women deal with this, while only 3 percent of men are critiqued for their mannerisms or personal characteristics. Sara Sanford noticed that if performance reviews are conducted more frequently and are based on a specific project, those comments towards women almost completely disappear.

Research suggests that making certain details on job applications anonymous, such as gender, race, and name, can reduce bias in the hiring process, applications for funding, and other opportunities. Anonymity has been shown to mitigate gender bias in research applications. When gender indicators were removed, more women were selected than when gender was obvious. The acceptance rate for women was 18 percent when gender was obvious, and this rate nearly doubled to 30 percent when gender became anonymous.

When it comes down to it, it isn’t just about the numbers. Even if we have a 50/50 split between men and women in the workplace, we need to set women up with more opportunities to have access to senior-level mentors. They need to see themselves in those positions and believe they can be leaders.

Why do we need women in the C-suite? Well, based on several studies in recent years, there has been an increase in evidence that women in executive positions and women sitting on corporate boards have a positive impact on an organization’s performance. A more diverse C-suite can lead to higher margins, larger profits, and improved total return to shareholders. There is also evidence that companies who have a higher proportion of women in decision-making roles continue to generate higher returns on equity while also coordinating more conservative balance sheets at the same time, according to a report by Credit Suisse in 2016. In the areas where there are more women accounting for most positions in upper management, the organizations show prime sales growth, loftier cash flow returns on investments, and lower leverage.

Knowing this, we can lead the change in the workplace and inspire the next generation leaders to come.

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