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Why women's successes are beneficial for everyone

07/03/2018
Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

At both school and university, female students are consistently outperforming their male peers, yet currently just 16% of all director seats are held by women and according to a recent study by MSCI, it will take until 2027 for female representation on boards to reach just 30%. MSCI’s research not only found that companies in the MSCI World Index with strong female leadership generated a Return on Equity of 10.1% per year versus 7.4% for those without, but also that that companies lacking board diversity suffered more governance related controversies than average.

Many sceptical commentators suggest that there is a dearth of female talent to assume seats on the board, however MSCI’s research indicated that while, somewhat unsurprisingly, female directors typically lagged their male counterparts in C-Suite experience, they outpaced men in achieving advanced educational degrees. So why aren’t women making it to the top positions?

Companies certainly need to do more to support female talent throughout their careers, but particularly when returning to work from maternity leave. A number of highly qualified and experienced professionals suffer a drop in confidence when returning from prolonged leave, with a recent article from the Guardian suggesting that one in three return to a job that is virtually unrecognisable. Companies also need to ensure that diversity and inclusion polices are an integral part of their business, and that all employees understand the importance of strong female representation.

However there are also some steps women can take to ensure that they give themselves the best chance of success. It’s important that women understand the breadth of their skill sets, and which competencies they need to develop in order to make steps up the career ladder. Often skills come hand in hand with passion, however women need to make sure they push the limits of their skillset and experience whenever possible. By practicing the things you lack confidence in, you can demonstrate that you are proactively working on a skill, even if you aren’t naturally gifted at it.

Research from Cambridge University found that women are better listeners and collaborators, so make sure to utilise soft skills in the workplace. Often leadership skills and the ability to build strong business relationships are just as important as competencies directly relevant to a specific role, particularly at board and executive levels, so women should make sure to demonstrate these abilities at work.

Women are also far less likely to apply for a job they are not 100% qualified for, while men are more likely to be ambitious with their applications, and aim for roles they may not yet possess all the skills or experience for. Women should consciously put themselves forward to lead on new projects or organising events to demonstrate their breadth of leadership skills.

It’s clear that strong female representation at the highest levels is beneficial to business as a whole and while it’s evident that organisations need to do more to support women throughout their careers, females also need to ensure that they embrace opportunities to further their skillset and demonstrate their leadership qualities.

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