Women in leadership is trending upwards – in volume and in success.
There are 23 women serving in the U.S. Senate, a historic high. There are more women serving as voting members of the House of Representatives. Over 25 percent of state legislatures are made up of women. To date, 39 women have served as governors in 28 states. (Pew Research Center)
In the business world, the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high of 6.4 percent in 2017, with 32 women heading major firms. Not to mention, the number of women sitting on the boards of Fortune 500 companies has more than doubled – from 9.6 percent in 1995 to 22.2 percent in 2017. (Pew Research Center)
Women In Leadership
32 women head major firms. This is an all-time high
Women sitting on major boards has doubled since 1995
Women as presidents of major colleges and universities has tripled since 1986.
Qualities of Women In Leadership
Sally Helgesen, who wrote The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership, noted five key observations after studying a number of America’s most successful female leaders.
She found that women leaders:
- Value relationships
- Communicate directly (rather than following a chain of command)
- Put themselves at the center of the people they lead
- Embrace diversity
- Seamlessly integrate their personal and professional lives (instead of compartmentalizing)
In a Forbes article by Michael Stallard, author, speaker and expert on leadership and culture, he noted two other favorable findings on female leadership:
- Analysis of more than 7,000 360-degree performance reviews found that women leaders outranked male leaders in nearly every one of 16 leadership competencies, including taking initiative and driving results. (Harvard Business Review)
- Additional research found that female managers are better at engaging employees – both male and female – more than their male manager counterparts. By the same token, female leaders were rated higher in areas that required connecting with the people they led. This includes giving recognition, providing feedback, and getting people into roles where they would learn the most and continue to grow. (Gallup)
Confident, Competent and Highly-Skilled
Another successful quality of female leaders is their ability and willingness to connect and network with one another. As a matter of fact, there are networking groups specific to female MBA students and graduates, including The National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA), which is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing women into leadership, and Women Leadership Councils. There are also specific MBA programs for female leaders, like Saint Mary’s College of California’s Women in Leadership program.
Notably, MBA enrollment for women is increasing – a trend paralleling the increasing number women in leadership roles.
In a report from the Graduate Management Admission Council, which collects data on hundreds of business schools, between the 2014 and 2015 academic school year, 51 percent of business schools saw an increase in women applicants for full-time, two-year MBA programs – and that percentage has only continued to rise. U.S. News & World Report found that 36.8 percent of full-time MBA students are female, 39.1 percent of part-time MBA students are female, and that 32 percent of executive MBA students are female.
But organizations like Catalyst – a global nonprofit working with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading companies to build workplaces that work for women – want more.
Catalyst reports that 86 percent of women MBA graduates are satisfied with their career and that 95 percent of both women and men graduates are satisfied with their MBA education. Despite women who attend MBA programs reporting high levels of satisfaction – in both their post-MBA career and in the education itself – women are still hesitating to make the investment in themselves. This hesitation is presenting an ‘opportunity-gap,’ which organizations like Catalyst are hoping to turn around.
As future female leaders consider whether or not to enroll in a leadership-oriented program, like the MBA, it’s good to keep in mind a few of the key benefits. They include:
- Personal brand and professional development: An MBA program molds leadership skills and acts as an incubator for personal brand development.
- Mentorship: One of the most cited benefits by MBA graduates is the formal and informal education the program provides, including access to professional mentors.
- Networking: An MBA alma mater is prime for identifying career opportunities post-graduation, not to mention the ongoing network that graduates have built by attending the program.
- Collaboration: The opportunity to learn alongside likeminded, goal-oriented people is another big benefit of MBA programs.
Women continue to take charge and lead in remarkable ways, including in the digital transformation of business. According to a 2018 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight, 33 percent of women entrepreneurs use a mobile device to process digital financial transactions, compared to 26 percent of men. In addition, 71 percent of women accept mobile payments from customers versus 65 percent of men.
The female outlook on the future is optimistic. In fact, 58 percent of women small business owners (SBOs) expect their revenue to increase in the year ahead. Moreover, 56 percent plan to grow their business over the next five years. The business world is fortunate to have their leadership.