Let’s start with some numbers: about 76 percent of U.S. women ages 25–54 are in the workforce. The good news: In the same study it was found that women ranked higher than men in 12 out of 16 essential leadership competencies, proving that women have what it takes to lead.
According to a study by Caliper, women leaders are more persuasive, assertive, driven to get things done, and willing to take risks than male leaders. In addition, they’re more empathetic, flexible, and have stronger interpersonal skills. Furthermore, research by Catalyst found that companies with sustained high representation of women—that is, three or more women board directors in at least four of five years—significantly outperformed those with no women board directors.
The bad news: Companies should be actively recruiting women to be leaders in their organization and participate as board directors, but this is unfortunately not always the case. As of 2010, women make up just 3 percent of Fortune 500 chief executives, and under 16 percent are Fortune 500 corporate officers. The numbers are similar or worse in other countries around the world. Only 8 percent of technology start-ups are led by women, and only 15 percent of senior management in all industries are women.
Women face a variety of challenges that hinder their desire to reach leadership positions. We’ll take a look at those challenges, but more importantly, we’ll look at how women can maximize their strengths and build their skills to become effective leaders in any organization.
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