Breedlove's Briefing: The Reason So Few Women Get to the Top

June 10 - Stephanie Breedlove

Hi! I’m Stephanie Breedlove, Co-Founder of HomePay, Author and Angel Investor.

I absolutely adore taking an idea and giving it life in the form a business, then leading it to its full potential. Nothing is more fun. (Seriously!) I’d love for every woman who wants to start her own business to say the same thing, so here I am, mentoring millennial entrepreneurs. When I’m not working, I like to recharge and head outdoors to hike, bike, or stand up paddle board!

Is that list of business news and trending articles you’ve tagged still unread? I get it. Allow me to help. Take a couple minutes to read my summary of articles serving the most pertinent, actionable business topics. Or, take 10 minutes to read the full article, and put another brick on the foundation of your growing career.

This Week’s Must-Read:

The Reason So Few Women Get to the Top

Who it’s for:

Every leader in every company.

Why it’s important:

For decades, gender diversity advocates have made an argument that rests on two key points: 1) that gender diversity is good for business and 2) that companies need more women-friendly policies to achieve greater gender diversity. But this argument isn’t working: Women still make up tiny fractions of CEOs, and women consistently find themselves in lower-paying jobs and industries. At this rate of progress, it will take hundreds of years for women to achieve parity.

Perhaps the argument hasn’t worked because we assume that if people need special help getting to power, it means that they are inherently less competent. Generally, free market thinkers assume that businesses don’t need to be pushed to do things that are “good for business.” So, if we are going to scratch this approach off the list, where do we go from here?

To find the answer, we may need to recognize that we are overlooking something big: Leadership today is much less meritocratic than we think.

Consider: If people were promoted to leadership roles because of their talent, then good leadership would be the norm. Instead, the reality is rather different: Managerial competence is relatively rare. Just google “my boss is” and take a look at the auto-complete statements. People’s trust in their leaders continues to decline, despite organizations spending more on leadership development and recruiting.

There is plenty of evidence that there’s a difference between being in charge and being good at leading. We often put people in charge based on characteristics such as narcissism, charisma, confidence – qualities that aren’t really related to leadership effectiveness.

Similarly, being a man is significantly advantageous for being chosen to lead, but does that mean that men make better leaders?

There is a female advantage when it comes to transformational leadership - a style that is linked to higher levels of team engagement, morale, and productivity. Men tend to lead more autocratically and are more likely to be laissez-faire leaders – a counterproductive leadership style. Yet women are consistently less likely to be promoted to leadership roles.

The assumption that policies promoting a more balanced gender ratio in leadership may harm businesses is based on the misconception that the current state affairs is meritocratic. In fact, promoting people for their actual talents would lead to a slight surplus of women in leadership, even if our selection of leaders is gender-blind.

Top Take-Away: To get better at choosing their leaders, companies need to change how leaders are groomed and promoted. These changes would not only allow more women to advance; they would help men who don’t fit our assumptions about what a leader “should” be. The result would be a rising tide of leadership competence that would be good for business.

More valuable reading on the type of leadership that maximizes success:

How the Wrong People Get Promoted and How to Change It

5 Ways Bad Leadership Can Destroy Your Business

Why Women Are More Effective Leaders Than Men

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