Female Leadership In Europe Text

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Female Leadership In Europe Text

  1. 1. Female Leadership in Europe – a driver for change... Ladies & Gentlemen, Good afternoon! I would like to thank the organization for inviting me to this conference. It’s a great privilege to be here and to talk about female leadership as a source of knowledge for organizations and as a driver for change in Europe. There are four questions I would like to address: 1. What is the gender equality situation in Europe? 2. Why aren’t enough women on the boards? 3. Are there different leadership styles for women and man? 4. Why is change necessary? 1. What is the gender equality situation in Europe? So, let’s start with the gender equality situation in Europe. Regarding the female representation on decision-making positions of the public companies, EU with 27 countries only has 11% of women. The countries represented here are the ones where EWMD has already a Chapter and by courtesy I have included also Slovenia as a startup Chapter. Unfortunately, I don’t have information from Switzerland. So, we don’t have the whole picture here. Still, we can find three countries above EU-27 average: Slovenia, Lithuania and Germany and the rest quite below the average. The female representation is far, far away from equality. Nevertheless, we are on the right track and we expect further improvement in several countries, following the example of the Nordic countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland. 2. Why aren’t enough women on the boards? Women face several obstacles along the way. Scholars have replaced the concept of glass ceiling by the labyrinth of female leadership. In the labyrinth, women face those obstacles, which most of the times lead to a dead-end. Let me just mention a few like, 1
  2. 2. maternity leave and part-time jobs, which are mostly career killers for women. Child care support is inexistent or too much expensive in several countries, especially where there is a social pressure for mothers to stay at home taking care of their children. The business world is still mainly a man’s world! In most countries, leadership is seen as a male job and those stereotypes are especially negative for women. Is much harder for a woman to achieve work-life balance! Women spend more time with domestic activities, caring for the family and the spare time is not enough to invest in social relationships, in networking, which is one of the most important factors that drive career opportunities. Companies can change their organizational culture in order to ease those obstacles inside the labyrinth. For instance, avoiding any kind of discriminatory behaviour inside the company and changing the long-hours norm because women need to balance their lives. Measuring performance objectively, based on meritocracy. Using open-recruit tools and target a fair share of talent pool, ensuring critical mass of women in executive positions, helping women to develop their social capital, implementing family-friendly practices and most of all requiring top-management commitment for these issues. 3. Are there different leadership styles for women and man? According with a survey conducted by the University of Emory (US), different attitudes and behaviours were identified to describe female and male successful leaders. Female leaders were described as showing a cooperative behaviour and as being more socially oriented, a team player, willing to share the power, showing respect and caring for others. On the other hand, men were classified as being aggressive and tough, absolute winners, very focused in winning the game and in self promotion. They are insensitive to critics and mainly they enjoy holding the power. Another study from PewResearchCenter has identified 8 of the most important traits for leadership. In 5 of those traits, women rule; in 2 of them: hardworking and ambitious we have an equal score and only in 1 trait women loose, which is decisive. 2
  3. 3. These differences can be optimized if they are mixed together at the top level. Hence, complementarity is the key! 4. Why is change necessary? More women at the top level of the companies, with at least a critical mass of 3 women, are a factor of competitiveness: • McKinsey and Catalyst found a positive relation between women in top level positions and a better financial performance of companies; • Bernard Bass, an American scholar and researcher found that women have a transformational leadership style, which is a more effective type of leadership enabling corporate performance beyond expectations; • McKinsey has reported about the enlarged talent pool when companies also consider women for top level positions; • Women are the decision-makers for 80% of consumer goods (even if they are not the consumers of such products), therefore women in top level positions are better acquainted to define the corporate strategy for the consumer markets. And women at top level positions are also a driver for sustainability, as women have a long term vision, an holistic perspective of the company, taking into consideration the interests of all the main stakeholders of the company. Also, women take into consideration the moral and ethic consequences of their own decisions and they are very sensitive to corporate social responsibility. A great example comes from Iceland. Their spectacular meltdown was caused by a banking and business culture that was reckless and overwhelmingly male. Women are now running the country; they are determined to reinvent business and society by injecting values of openness, fairness and social responsibility. Halla Tómasdóttir from Audur Capital is also setting the example in Iceland. Let me quote her "If the institutions are under the control of a single group - and now it is men - and they all think the same way, we are not going to make positive changes. For the 3
  4. 4. first time in 100 years we have the chance to create a company, a society, a country, and hopefully a world that is more sustainable, more fair for men as well as women. If we are not going to do that now, then when will we?" My friends, change is in your hands! Don’t miss this opportunity! Thank you very much for your attention. 4

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