6 Characteristics of female leadership
This post is written in honor of International Women’s Day. We live in a moment in time in which the world has evolved and important advances have been made on a global scale; however, the role of women in the world continues to have an enormous area of opportunity, both in society and in the workforce. A wide gender gap still exists where discrimination against women continues to occur. For example, according to the World Bank, “the participation of women in the workforce in Mexico was only 45 percent in 2019, compared to 77 percent for men, a gap of 32 percentage points; In addition, only 16% of women in Mexico occupy a leadership position, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The pandemic did not help the situation, since to the new global projections of the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicated that in 2021 only 43.2% of women of working age will have a job, while 68.6% of the men will be working. The ILO explained that although female employment will grow faster than that of men next year, it will not be enough to compensate for the loss suffered by the pandemic and the level of employment will not reach the 2019 mark.
In this context, female leadership becomes an important imperative. The concept refers to the participation of women in different areas exercising high positions where their decision-making goes beyond directing groups and implementing strategies. In addition, women are characterized by differentiating elements in this: transparency, flexibility and willingness to admit mistakes; clear and coherent communication and promotion of the values of cooperation and empathy.
And Latin America has not been immune to the participation and growth of women as leaders throughout the world and we have not only seen this reflected in women holding public positions but also in the private sector with a significant number of women in leadership positions.
Diane Garza, CEO of iCatalyze, points out that “it is necessary to continue working hard to close the gender gap, since according to UN Women as of September 1, 2021, there are currently only 26 women heads of state and/or government in 24 countries, if we continue at this current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be achieved for another 130 years.”
Some aspects that characterize female leadership are:
1) Being more sociable and expressive which helps women establish close ties, strengthening the possibility of achieving goals, whether they are company objectives or a particular project
2) Tendency to cooperate; they make teamwork more natural through the inclusion and active support of people.
3) They have the innate ability to think and operate in different directions at the same time, this offers an advantage when making decisions and facing crises
4) Horizontal leadership, since female leadership is inclusive, they tend to encourage participation and share information and power with those who lead.
5) Emotional predominance; since they are generally capable of considering the “human” side of individuals and generate high levels of empathy
6) They are more prone to change; with an innovative style and a strong sense of quality that is people-oriented, flexible, communicative and persuasive.
Experiences from female leaders
But the attributes that make up leadership are not only necessary to forge great leaders, women have gone through all sorts of challenges to achieve important representation in different spheres. Highlighting some female leaders, for example, Angélica Arana, Payment Technology Transformation Lead at Citibank points out “I resigned from a local bank where I worked for more than 25 years, at 50 years of age I left my comfort zone, facing my own doubts and fears, as well as age and gender biases.”
Melina Masnatta, Co-Founder of Girls in Technology & Director of Global Learning & DEI at Globant, points out that “the challenge has always been in terms of remuneration and hiring conditions. There is a certain distrust that you can “perform as well as a man” and that is why we always start from a lower base, to show that we are really worth the same.”
Grissel Seijo, Senior Director and Counsel, Employment Law at Discovery, shared insights that I see time and again with coaching clients: “The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my professional career was having the courage to challenge my negative self-talk. I am my biggest bully. Taking a hard look at how I was treating myself led to me freeing myself to enjoy the career, ask for the promotion, ask for the raise and allow myself to have a chance at “yes” rather than tell myself, “no” all the time.”
However, these challenges can be overcome, Ana Collado Jímenez, Representative at the Legislature of Madrid, points out that the best advice for becoming a leader is to “connect with the best allies: coherence, consistency, the ability to work as a team and with all kinds of teams, and being able to enjoy every moment with all its implications.”
Melina mentions her best advice to women “That they can connect with other women and people they admire (forging a network is key!), and that they explore different tools for leadership, today there is no single model. That is why the next generation of women leaders will be able to establish their own diverse and dynamic styles.”
Diane Garza, CEO of iCatalyze points out that “To achieve gender equality, it is necessary to promote equality and it is everyone’s task. I am proud that this is part of my day-to-day work with companies and individuals. My biggest advice for women who want to develop their leadership is to start by valuing their achievements, knowledge and contributions to increase their self-confidence and maximize their potential. Do not be afraid to be ambitious and get out of your comfort zone”, concludes Diane Garza.