When I talk to CEOs, they are often looking for qualified women for supervisory board positions or for management. It’s not just a matter of meeting political targets. It is simply necessary to get more women into management positions. Diversity is one of the key factors in the “VUCA world“, where volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are increasing constantly. Companies in a complex environment, where rapid adaptations and innovations are necessary, will hardly survive if their leadership is purely white and male. This realization should slowly have reached all levels of companies with future aspirations.
Why, nevertheless, do (too) few women become C-Suite executives?
Three important reasons:
- Women tend to stay at home with the children longer than men. Only those who make the leap to the first management level at an early stage manage to make greater career leaps. The stairs can usually be climbed only one step at a time. So if you miss a few years, you usually won’t be able to climb as many hierarchy levels either. Even though a lot has been done in this area in recent years, the world of work is still not really compatible with parental leave.
- “I like what’s similar to me.” A male leader is more likely to appoint a man as a successor. Women have different communication styles, often not as dominant, often not as confident, but more relationship-oriented, empathetic and multi-layered. I understand those who are similar to me better. The boss himself has made his way and he prefers people who are similar to him. So, whoever is similar to him – male in this case – will perhaps do equally well. This hurdle will come down with every woman in a leadership position, brick by brick and job by job.
- Yes, ladies, that’s where we come in – and here’s where the keys to a successful future lie. Men often have more confidence in themselves. An example from job interviews: When I ask a male trainer/consultant if he can imagine leading a training in French, I hear sentences like: “Sure, I had French in school and have also been to Paris. It’ll work out. Near native, I would say.” From women, on the other hand, I tend to hear, “French? I was an au pair in Toulouse for a year, still have regular contact there, and I travel to France regularly on vacation. But French in coaching? Only with a lot of preparation.” To whom would I rather give the job? The one who obviously can do it, but doesn’t dare? The one I´ll to ask and encourage for a long time? If I push her, does she take responsibility for the outcome? Or do I give the job to the one who wants to convince me that he will find a way?
Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes. If we first have to be continuously encouraged to apply for a leadership position instead of actively reaching for it, things get tight. To do that, of course, we have to know what we want – and what we definitely don’t want. It’s worth investing time in your own development. Female business coaching can help you to take a clear position or a mentor program or even a women-in-leadership seminar. But all this only works if the urgent desire is there in the first place: to make clear decisions and to take responsibility for them. In doing so, you have to endure conflicts and resistance, because you can’t please everyone anyway. If this doesn´t appeal to you, you won’t be happy in management.
Why do we actually need more women in management positions? Men have done a good job so far in management positions. And if so many qualified women don’t actually want to…?
Yes, many do want to. And even more can do it once they have decided to go for it. And we need more female communication. The time has come. Women are often more communicative, more empathetic, better listeners, and more likely than men to accept and integrate the ideas of others. Of course, there are men who are good at this and women who are not good at all. But it’s not a coincidence that women are more likely to enter social professions. Very many women are simply excellent at these skills.
With the “the boss knows best” leadership of yesterday, digitalization can´t be managed. Anyone who claims that they can even begin to oversee everything today may have a firm belief in themselves, but a far too small field of vision and ultimately no idea what is happening around them.
Today, employees want to have a say and shape things. And if they don’t get the space for that, they’ll switch jobs. The best and the younger ones are especially prone to that. They then leave their manager, not the company. Ambitious goals can no longer be achieved with managers who are like bottlenecks, who let very little through. Today, we need fewer elbows and more communication skills in management.
So, for those of you who perhaps don’t dare to do it today, but actually should: Look at it as your social obligation to make a strong case for a leadership job. Otherwise, someone else will do it, probably a man. And the question is – will he be better at it?
Procrastinating and then being angry that you didn’t apply for the management job won’t help you at all.
A doctor friend of mine who works in palliative medicine told me: When she talks to old people at the end of their lives, they almost never regret what they did. They regret what they did NOT do.