In advance of International Women’s Day on 8 March, here are a few thoughts from Julie Kortens on Women Leaders and Authenticity…
Why do we still hear so many aspiring women leaders talking about the obstacles in their way to promotion, rather than the opportunities they have to build on their strengths and to progress in their careers?
In the past few weeks, we have celebrated the suffragette movement and all that it achieved for women in the UK. But just last Autumn, there was a report on FTSE 100 CEOs (published by High Pay Centre and CIPD) mentioning there were more men named David and Steve among top CEOs than there were female chief executives.
I wish we could start celebrating the fact that 50 years ago, there wouldn’t have been any women there at all. We should be building on progresses made and the great work these role models have achieved and continue to achieve.
There is no doubt that we are still on a journey. While not completely eradicated, in this modern era, women in the UK face far fewer issues than their foremothers.
There are a huge number of successful women in business and we need to capture and bottle their success, following in their footsteps and believing that, given fair access and equal opportunity, there is no reason why women can’t succeed.
Of course, as recent headlines show, equal pay for jobs of equal value also needs to keep pace, but history shows we may move one step backwards for each two steps forward.
Everyone one of us has our own aspirations and personality. It is clear there are many different leadership styles and, invariably, women lead differently from men. This does not make them less effective, it just makes them different.
Women may face particular challenges in the workplace and at home, but personal action plans will help them overcome them while building credibility as a leader. It’s essential that they focus on their own, authentic, leadership style if they are going to realise their potential.
Women (like men) will benefit from effective and supportive networks. They need to learn how to play ‘politics’ in a positive way, increasing their impact at meetings and increasing visibility.
They communicate differently and often deal with conflict in different ways but, with confidence, they will be able to break through real and perceived barriers.
Talking these issues through with trusted friends, family, professional coaches and mentors will help. You are not alone. There are people ahead, behind and alongside you on your journey to success. As Maya Angelou says: “A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.”