Advantages of women in business
A diverse workforce is an innovative workforce
Diversity—from gender diversity to culture, age, and race—has been shown to breed creativity and innovation. Organizations across industries are seeking to prioritize and benefit from a diverse and inclusive work environment.
Men and women will inevitably have different experiences and backgrounds, which shape their approach to business. Challenging each other and collaborating with people who think differently can breed creativity and promote the innovative ideas that push organizations forward.
“Even with the very best of intentions, we have a tendency to gravitate towards people who are like us. It takes a real leader to say ‘I need someone to challenge me.’ That challenge can spawn new creativity, innovation, and growth.”
Women excel at the soft skills needed for business leadership
While technical skill and knowledge are fundamental to career success, CEOs consistently cite soft skills as the key desirable professional attributes.
Although characteristics like effective communication, empathy, and self-awareness are difficult to measure, they are highly valued and can make a real difference to the bottom line.
Soft skills and emotional intelligence may prove a key competitive advantage for women in business. Apparently women outperform men in 11 of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies. These competencies included emotional self-awareness, empathy, conflict management, adaptability, and teamwork—all essential skills for effective leadership in the workplace.
Women represent huge economic power and offer important consumer insight
With the power of the female consumer in mind, it’s evident that women are best placed to tap into that opportunity and bring valuable consumer insight to the table.
Tapping into the insight both men and women offer can make products and services more marketable and a business more profitable.
Challenges for women in business
Women are still underrepresented in key fields
While a number of industries are showing trends of a growing female workforce, sectors like finance, engineering, and tech still tend to be strongly male-dominated. In STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) industries overall, women make up just 24% of the workforce in the U.S. and less than 15% in the U.K.
Gender bias in the workplace
While most executives agree that the best person—regardless of gender—should get the job, the stories of women finding more success with a male or gender-neutral name on their CV demonstrates that unconscious bias still exists.
The women who are in or want to position themselves for leadership roles often feel they come under particular scrutiny. Where men may be encouraged to be ambitious or assertive, women are programed from a young age not to be “bossy”. Underlying gender bias means the same behavior and characteristics—initiative, passion, and taking charge—can be interpreted differently in men and women in the workplace.
Women are less successful when it comes to salary negotiation
Women’s own reluctance ask for higher pay is often cited as a factor behind the gender pay gap. When Glassdoor did a recent survey on salary negotiation, it found that 68% of women accepted the salary they were offered, while nearly half of the men surveyed negotiated before accepting a role. It also revealed that when women did try to negotiate their starting salary, the outcome was generally less favorable.
Challenging the notion that women don’t ask for raises, a 2016 study from Cass Business School, the University of Warwick, and the University of Wisconsin, found that women are equally as likely as men to ask for a wage increase. But they’re also 25% less likely to get one.
It’s almost an accepted truth that men have a better sense of self-belief when positioning themselves for leadership roles or negotiating pay. Even highly successful women suffer from “imposter syndrome”, feeling inadequate and underestimating their worth. Women believing in their own value and demanding a salary that reflects it is an important step in closing the wage gap, while greater pay transparency can also help to level the playing field.
Opportunities for women in business
Gender equality and inclusivity becoming policy
For many of forward-thinking organizations, gender equality is becoming a matter of policy, whether it’s committing to equal representation of women in the boardroom or hiring diversity officers.
Discouraging and circumventing bias through hiring policy can help organizations to reap the benefits of balance and equality. Rather than political correctness or buzzwords, if diversity, inclusiveness, and gender equality become policy and are embedded in business strategy, businesses thrive.
Making a commitment to things like equitable gender representation, inclusive company culture, and work-life balance—including maternity and paternity benefits—also help organizations to attract top talent. These are a few reasons why companies like Salesforce, General Electric, and Deloitte are cited as excellent places for both women and men to work.
Entrepreneurship as the path to leadership
For a growing number of women, the fastest route to the c-suite is launching their own business. In the United States, the number women-owned businesses have increased 74% over the past 20 years—1.5 times the national average. Today’s start-up culture empowers women to be their own boss and pay their own salary, defining how they want to work and making the balance of career and family life easier. Entrepreneurship presents a path for women to close the pay gap and rise to leadership positions, on their own terms.
Running their own company also offers the opportunity for women to collaborate with and hire other ambitious, like-minded women, fostering a new generation of women in leadership roles.
Strengthening credentials with a business degree
To stand out in a competitive job market, many women hone the knowledge and expertise they need through a business degree. The number of women enrolling in business school is steadily on the rise. Whether it’s undergraduate study, an MBA, EMBA, or Masters degree, business school offers a valuable platform for women to become subject-matter experts, practice leadership skills, and gain the confidence they need to step into the boardroom.