On International Women's Day and every day, it's time for women to smash the glass ceiling

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International Women's Day 2019 is being celebrated around the world on Friday. This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter, a call to action for driving gender balance around the world.

Why and how?

The why is simple if you’re the parent of a daughter or an organization looking to better reflect the population it serves.

But in the business world, gender equality is also good for your company’s bottom line. There’s substantial evidence that having women at the C-suite level significantly boosts net margins. That’s right — populating your executive offices with women will make your company more prosperous.

Despite this, there are now only 27 female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, although it’s expected to rise to 28 soon — but still, that’s a depressing 5.6 per cent.

So how to affect change and help women break through the glass ceiling, whether you’re at the helm of a company or in the rank and file?

In 2017, the Harvard Business Review worked with Korn Ferry International, interviewing 57 women executives in an attempt to crack the code of their success. The goal was to help businesses ensure more women rise through the ranks in the future.

The findings aren’t just helpful in determining how to bring about change in the C-suite, they also help explain why, in fact, women make such good leaders.

Among the study’s key findings were that women had to work harder, longer, to get to the same place as their comparable male colleagues. That’s likely not much of a surprise to any woman reading this, but it speaks to the persistence of women.

The female CEOs also scored much higher on the humility score — they didn’t hesitate to ask for help and readily gave credit to those who contributed to their success, all signs of strong, authentic leadership that helps build morale at any company.

They also said they were motivated by a sense of purpose as much as a desire for profit — an important quality in an era in which millennial consumers increasingly want to buy from, or work for, companies with a social conscience.

There’s a wealth of material in the study for companies determined to get more women into the C-suite. Promote them earlier. Make sure they know they’re CEO material and encourage them via mentoring. Communicate to the women in your ranks the meaningful contributions they could achieve in the C-suite.

And on a smaller smaller scale, check your own gender biases about female leaders. You may not even realize you have them. But think hard about the different standards you hold women to versus men in the workplace. Ask yourself if you’d feel the same way about the work style of a colleague, a co-worker, a boss or an employee if she was a man. Would you be reacting less harshly?

On International Women’s Day — and every day — let’s snuff out these tiresome sexist tendencies and encourage the rise of women. Let’s #BalanceforBetter.