Inc.: The Hidden Advantage of Women in Leadership: How Closing the Gender Gap Can Increase GDP

Originally posted on INC.

Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is founder and CEO of Zen Media, a new media communications firm. She is also an international speaker, an author, and a regular media correspondent for major networks ranging from Fox Business to Bloomberg.

From increasing productivity and enhancing collaboration, to inspiring organizational dedication and decreasing employee burnout, the benefits of having women in the workplace are well documented.

On top of that, closing the gender gap can increase GDP by an average of 35%. But although we've made significant strides in creating more gender-inclusive work environments, there's still much work to be done when it comes to including women in more management and leadership roles.

According to McKinsey & Company's latest Women in the Workplace study, which surveyed over 64,000 employees and 279 companies employing 13 million people, only one in five senior leaders is a woman, and one in 25 is a woman of color.

Women are earning more bachelor's degrees than men and negotiating salaries at the same rate as men--so why are we not seeing more female leaders?

Unfortunately, it has to do with the fact that many companies still don't view gender diversity as a priority, because they don't see how it could benefit their bottom line.

To shed some light on how gender inclusiveness can help organizations thrive, here are three advantages that women leaders can bring to the table.

The Competitive Edge of Soft Skills

Dolly Parton once said, "If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are an excellent leader."

While technical skill, experience, and knowledge are fundamental to success, organizations are now holding soft skills in much higher regard. According to the Department of Labor, soft skills are now rated as "even more important to work readiness."

Often referred to as emotional intelligence, soft skills refer to any ability pertaining to the way you approach others or handle your professional life. Included in these are essential leadership capabilities, including:

  • Professionalism (self-motivation, work ethic, resilience)

  • The ability to network

  • Collaboration

  • Communication, both oral and written

  • Critical thinking

Women have been proven to hold a key advantage in these soft skills--a study by global consulting firm Hay Group found that women outperform men in 11 of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies. According to Richard E. Boyatzis, Ph.D, one of the study's developers and co-owners, "... If more men acted like women in employing their emotional and social competencies, they would be substantially and distinctly more effective in their work."

Better Problem-Solving

People who differ from one another in gender, ethnicity, or other identities bring a diversity of perspectives to an organization, which enhances creativity and encourages the search for novel information.

This, in turn, leads to better decision-making, and ultimately, greater success. A study on female representation in top management found that companies that prioritized innovation saw greater financial gains when women were part of the top leadership ranks.

Additionally, another report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute discovered that companies with one or more women on the board delivered higher average returns on equity, lower net debt equity and better average growth.

Building Trust

According to Pew Research Center's Women and Leadership survey, 34% of American workers say that women have an edge over men when it comes to being honest and ethical, while just 3% believe men are better.

In today's high-visibility world, where trust is a valuable and fragile commodity, it's more important than ever to ensure that a company and its leaders are always acting in an ethical manner.

Failing to uphold ethics-based behaviors can have serious consequences and negative long-term implications for any organization. On top of declining team morale, lower productivity, and internal turmoil, unethical behavior can result in financial loss, a significantly damaged public reputation, loss of confidence from investors, and much more.

In the words of Nidhi Raina, Head of Personal Excellence and Organizational Transformation at Tata Consultancy Services, "For any initiative, return on reputation--values and beliefs, as an organization and as an individual--is as important, if not more so, as return on investment."

From professionalism to collaboration, to a supportive management style, to a cooperative problem-solving approach, women possess skills that make them invaluable assets. When women combine these capabilities to fuel their leadership, they achieve qualitative cultural gains and win quantitative business success alike. By productively integrating and advancing both soft and hard skills, female leaders innovate the organization itself and drive sustainable growth.

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Original post can be found here.