Women Leaders Advance Business

Cultivating women leaders in business is a strategy that will help U.S. businesses be profitable and maintain a leadership position in the global marketplace. Women leaders can strengthen the numbers and position of women in the workforce, an area where the U.S. is steadily falling behind other countries.

In 2000, 59.9 percent of women age 15/16 or older were in the labor force. By 2010, 58.6 percent of women in that age group were in the labor force and by 2015, the percentage of women in the workforce was 56.7 percent. This decline does not follow the pattern of the rest of the world. The U.S. used to have one of the highest labor force participation rates among women in this age group, but now it has one of the lowest rates compared with eight developed countries in the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis study Labor Force Participation: The U.S. and Its Peers.
Developing women leaders can help reverse the trend of fewer women in the workforce and improve business performance.

Women are assets to problem solving
Women leaders create diversity in business. That diversity impacts decision making and problem solving in positive ways, by bringing multiple viewpoints and experiences into play. The MSCI report Women on Boards reports on studies showing that diversity leads to innovation and better decisions. Multiple views have advantages:
• One study use a mathematical model and found that groups of randomly selected problem solvers outperformed groups of high ability problem solvers. The diversity of the randomly selected group offset the expert group’s lack of problem solving diversity.
• Informational diversity improved performance. The more complicated a task that required interdependent work, the greater the positive effect of the diversity.
• Less-diverse groups were more confident about their decisions, however the diverse group decision were more often correct.

Perceptions of women leaders
An individual needs to exhibit certain characteristics to be a leader. The Pew study Women and Leadership reports that most Americans believe women and men are equal on some leadership traits such as intelligence and ability to innovate. In other traits, they believe women have the advantage in business:
• 64 percent of Americans believe women and men are equally honest and ethical, but 31 percent believe that women are more honest and ethical compared to 3 percent who believe that of men
• 66 percent of Americans believe women and men are equally good at mentoring employees, but 25 percent believe that women are better at this compared to 7 percent who believe that of men
• 64 percent believe women are more compassionate than men, compared to 2 percent who believe that of men
• 45 percent believe that women are more organized than men, compared to 4 percent who believe that of men

The American public has the perception that women have the necessary skills and traits to be good leaders in business. This perception shows an acceptance of women leaders in business.

Women leaders are prepared
Women who have leadership traits and aspire to leadership positions are women who understand the demands of the position.

Fewer women than men strive to become a CEO or have a senior management position: 45 percent of women compared to 54 percent of men. However, the women who seek these roles are as serious as men about it: 69 percent of women say they are extremely or very serious about obtaining such a role, compared to 68 percent of men. Women’s patterns of enrollment in school show their drive. Since the 1990s, women have outnumbered men in both college enrollment and college completion rates. And women are more likely than men to continue their education beyond college. The Pew study shows that:
• In 2013, 37% of women age 25-20 had at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 30% of men in that age group
• In 2013, 12% of women ages 25-34 had a master’s doctorate or professional degree compared to 8% of men in that age group
• In 2012, women earned 60% percent of all master’s degrees and 51% of all doctorates

Women leaders influence workplace engagement

Women leaders influence employee engagement in their jobs. The Gallup report Women in America states, “Engagement is the most important factor for empowering individuals, teams and organizations to perform with excellence.” There are concrete links between employee engagement and performance measures such as absenteeism, turnover rates, productivity and profit.
The report shows that women in the U.S. are more engaged at work than men, and female managers are more engaged than male managers. Employees who work for a female manager are more engaged than employees who work for a male manager, and the most engaged employees are females who work for female managers.

Women leaders are important to business success. Businesses that encourage women to develop their leadership skills will reap the benefits of the increased diversity. “Building strong working relationships with everyone in an organization and building those same relationships with client and corporate partners is something women do instinctively. Women bring a unique and diverse perspective to leadership of companies. This is something businesses are just beginning to tap into. Women lead by example. They inspire other employees by their engagement at work and dedication to continual education. It is important for women to feel that their work is important and matters, so they take their success and their business success very personally. Women can make a great impact in an organization when given the opportunity,” says Adrienne Way, owner and CEO of Edcor.