Towards a Better Balance

The buzz around International Women’s Day has made me reflect on the gender balance that exists in organisations, particularly when it comes to leaders. Reading the most recent McKinsey Women in the Workplace report, which focuses on the US context but closely mirrors other Western countries, we are still in a situation where only 22% of C Suite level leaders are female.

What implications does this gender imbalance have for the outcomes of businesses and organisations? In a recent study conducted by the University of California Davis, compared to the overall group of companies surveyed, the 25 firms with the highest percentage of women Execs and Board members had returns on assets and equity that were at least 74% higher. So greater representation of women drives business success.

You’d think therefore that businesses would be scrambling to hire, promote and develop female leaders. We are finding that many of our clients are doing just that and are looking for ways to embed gender balance from the top down in their organisations. Clues from the McKinsey report help us to lay a trail in the woods to get to the ‘sunlit grove’ of true fluidity of movement for women; right to the top of our biggest companies. For promotion and hiring, McKinsey suggest firstly, introducing more automation into screening processes to reduce bias and secondly, setting clear, consistent evaluation criteria for identifying leadership talent.

Of course, reading that, I perked up considerably as I could see where our practice at Capp, and as occupational psychologists in general, contributes to the re-balancing process. In our assessment team, we have developed a view of leadership that clients can draw on to build consistent criteria. Aligning with our Capp philosophy (that tapping into authentic strengths drives engagement and success at work) and building on a breadth of research into leadership success factors, we have arrived at some interesting conclusions.

It turns out that many of the leadership qualities that link to success in the future are not only based on being authentic, inclusive and agile, but are also disruptive to the current prevailing model (some would say the ‘male, stale and pale’ one) – a model that has created what is being called a ‘global leadership crisis’ by the World Economic Forum. And I, for one, am really looking forward to helping organisations use a new approach, inclusive of male and female leaders alike, which will not only establish balance at the top but will drive success of all kinds.

  1. Women in the Workplace, McKinsey, 2018
  2. Annual Study of Women Business Leaders, University of California Davis, 2015-16
  3. Outlook on the Global Agenda, World Economic Forum, 2015