Leadership’s Biggest Challenge

This week Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, banned employees from working from home. The resulting firestorm has called into question Mayer’s leadership ability, but the conversation always seems to come back to whether women have a place above the glass ceiling. So here are the facts: women in leadership have a distinct edge.

A 2011 Harvard Business Review survey of over 7,000 leaders, women scored higher than men in 15 out of 16 categories of leadership competencies, including taking initiative, driving for results and championing change. According to Forbes magazine, women are better at navigating tricky organizational waters like seizing opportunities, networking, and leading sustainable change. In fact, major corporations with women on the board outperformed their all-male competitors by 26% worldwide over the course of six years – that’s including the global financial crash in 2008.

Now, I’m not saying women are better leaders than men. I am saying they are equally capable, insightful and smart – a fact that seems at odds with the realities of women in leadership today. Consider:

Women in 77 cents to every man’s dollar.

Despite the correlation between female board members and performance, 36% of U.S. corporations still don’t have a single woman on their boards.

Women account for one third of MBA students, but are merely 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.

Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).

Women hold 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives (the equivalent body in Rwanda is 56.3% female).

The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures.

 

With data like these, seeing women equally represented in leadership – in government, in business, in the media – is a clear social priority. If the U.S. is to remain a global leader in innovation, progress and equality, we need more female leaders in every sector. So through the month of March, we’re going to explore some of the complicated challenges facing women in leadership and try to identify some routes to progress.

Much of our information – and inspiration – comes from the award-winning documentary Miss Representation. The ComLead program is hosting a free screening of the film and a discussion panel with local leaders on March 26, 2013 on the Canisius campus in Buffalo. We welcome you to attend this event! Find more information here.

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