The more we learn about women in business leadership, the clearer it becomes: companies with an equitable mix of male and female leadership are more likely to succeed than companies with predominantly male leadership. The Harvard Business Review, the British Ministry of Labour and even Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank agree that companies with significant numbers of women in leadership roles are more profitable, provide better customer experiences and have more engaged, committed employees.

So why are so many women so burned out and disillusioned? According to Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code:

  • 1 million women have left the workforce in the past two years;
  • A third of women still working are considering quitting;
  • 51% of women say their mental health has declined.

It would seem that simple recognition of the importance and leadership effectiveness of women isn’t enough to overcome the many additional challenges faced by entrepreneurial and professional women. Finding the right balance between work and family, creating more equitable societal expectations and structures around caretaking and recalibrating measures of workplace value that embrace more than traditional notions of productivity are just three of the challenges that we need to address, according to women thought leaders, if we are serious about capturing the many advantages that women bring to the table in business leadership.

So, what can we do to better empower the next generation of female leaders in business? As with most pressing issues, a first step is gaining a clear picture of the current climate for women in the workforce. The COVID pandemic, in addition to bringing about a seismic shift in our assumptions about alternate working arrangements, also created extreme stress around childcare and children’s education, and the bulk of this burden fell on women, according to data and technology consulting firm Acxiom. Stefana Rusu, senior vice president of marketing, writes, “We’ve had to balance our day-to-day tasks with keeping morale high, ensuring we are empathetic to each of our team members’ situations in what has been an especially challenging time across the globe. Talk to women in your workforce to understand what they’re experiencing.”

Next, it is vital for businesses to create environments that encourage women to prioritize their own well-being over that of the firm—and to elevate that to a core corporate ethic. Jean-Francois Cousin, a member of the Forbes Coaches’ Council, says that too many women in leadership engage in self-talk like “I have to make everyone happy,” or “I need to self-sacrifice just this once more, for the greater good.” Instead, she advises women, “Don’t sacrifice anything you sense you will regret later on.”

Finally (and this should come as no surprise), young women who wish to ascend into leadership positions need mentorship and exemplars from more seasoned female leaders. A study at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy program found that even casual exposure to recognized female role models improved a woman’s ability to present public speeches. Or, as Jean-Francois Cousin says, “Create your team of mentors, get a coach and grow your network. Businesses and the world urgently need more women who lead unapologetically with their own greatness, not ‘as men lead.’ There is no limit to how far they can go.”

At the Wealth Advisor Alliance, we empower teams of women and men to create collaborations that magnify strengths, rather than highlighting differences. To learn more about our vision, click here.


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