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Women are Problem Solvers! Investing in Them is the Key to Inclusive Growth.

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Women are Problem Solvers! Investing in Them is the Key to Inclusive Growth.

This week’s article is provided by Pauline Koelbl, AfriProspect GmbH’s Founder and CEO as well as ShEquity’s Founder and Managing Partner.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled ShEquity: A Refugee’s Path to Empowering Women & Their Businesses that aired on Tuesday, March 8th, 2022.


Closing the gender gap can add $12 trillion to global growth. In Africa, there is a $42 billion gender funding gap that could add roughly $316 billion to Africa’s combined GDP if bridged. But economics is only half the story.

Globally, women are not fully included in economic activities and female entrepreneurs continue to receive less funding than their male counterparts. COVID19 has exacerbated the existing inequity despite the fact that women have been at the frontlines of addressing different challenges linked to the pandemic.  According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth. Thus, closing the existing gender gap is not a charity but a smart thing to do!

Accessing funding is even harder for dark and brown-looking women. In Africa, there is a $42 billion gender funding gap that could add roughly $316 billion to Africa’s combined GDP if bridged.  This, despite the fact that Africa has the highest number of female entrepreneurs globally, and 40% of Small and Medium Businesses (SMEs) are led and owned by women. I established ShEquity to address the existing gender funding gap in Africa by providing smart investment to African female founders who are creating impactful, innovative and scalable solutions to many challenges faced by many Africans.

The challenges that African female founders face are widespread and in many ways endemic, but when we discover innovative solutions that many female entrepreneurs are creating, we unearth new ways of accelerating the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and catalyzing inclusive economic growth.

The most enduring hurdle for African female entrepreneurs is financing. The scale of the gender financing gap for Africa’s early-stage ventures is nothing short of breathtaking, as indicated by the World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab. It produces rigorous research on what works and what does not work for women’s economic empowerment, and its analysis shows that between 2013 and 2021, only three percent (3%) of start-up funding on the African continent went to all-female founding teams. This gap is not improving: the Big Deal Substack reports that only 0.95% of the funding raised by African startups in 2021 went to startups founded or led by a woman or female-only team, compared to 82% for male counterparts.

If we drill down, there are complex issues at play here, including the fact that there are very few African female Fund Managers and gender-lens Funds as well as the differences in how men and women think about their enterprise financing. Female founders are less likely to pitch for equity investments but are more likely to apply for bank loans. Often, they are also unable to access loans due to the existing collateral biases. This points to the reality that the world of Venture Capital (VC) and Private Equity (PE) is male-dominated and geared towards male entrepreneurs and self-confidence issues.

Being a female-led gender-lens investor, ShEquity brings diversity to the world of investors. Additionally, the matter of self-confidence is addressed head-on at ShEquity. We very pointedly offer more than just financing – we combine cash investment with technical support, and access to high-value networks. We are unapologetic in stepping up and giving the women we work with this kind of practical and operational support – because where inequity exists, action is needed.

But it is not only for the benefit of the woman entrepreneur. Since we launched in 2020, we have already built a strong pipeline of de-risked deals, which allows investors to have access to the fertile African startup market. Investors want to know that the start-ups they entrust their money with are gearing up for success, which is why at ShEquity, we created an accelerator called SHEBA (ShEquity Business Accelerator). SHEBA serves as a Technical Assistance (TA) facility, providing pre-investment support, including a 16-week acceleration program focusing on de-risking qualifying businesses as well as post-investment value addition focusing on the development of growth strategies, networking, and soft skills including leadership.  Our ecosystem strategy allows our investors to have a multifarious return: fiscal, social, and environmental.

The social impact also has multiplier effects, touching upon the lives of so many people in so many ways. When leveraged together, two of the SDGs – gender equality and climate action – can impact nearly all the other SDGs, such as eliminating hunger and ensuring health and well-being. Together, gender and climate alone can unlock opportunities across societal goals. I have seen first-hand how, by leveraging the talents, skills and innovation of female entrepreneurs, we can bring needed actions to global challenges such as climate change and SDG priorities like equitable access to healthcare and food security.

At ShEquity, our investees address a vast array of environmental, social and economic issues. Examples include Ecodudu, a circular economy company feeding the future with insect-based protein, and a bus ride-sharing platform called Shuttlers, which sets out to reduce car use and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Widenergy is dedicated to the last-mile distribution of clean, reliable, and affordable energy solutions. It sets out to realize a world where every African woman and girl has access to clean, affordable and sustainable energy for better life chances, health, education and household income.

This all amounts to the creation of a gender-lens investment model – a brand new ecosystem that provides much-needed support to early-stage female-led and owned businesses. Crucially, it is an approach that reassures potential investors that they are investing in de-risked, scalable and impactful companies. Such companies have the capacity to generate a triple-bottom-line return while addressing different challenges, creating decent jobs and contributing to meeting the SDGs. In the end, ShEquity’s ultimate goal is to be ‘Doing Well While Doing Good’ – and we are proud to bring so many investors with us on such a crucial journey.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Pauline Koelbl is AfriProspect GmbH’s Founder and CEO as well as ShEquity’s Founder and Managing Partner, Pauline is a leading innovation expert in developing & emerging economies, impact investor and seasoned impact-driven team leader with over 20 years experience in international affairs and venture philanthropy.

AfriProspect focuses on connecting African innovators with global markets, and ShEquity provides smart investment to impactful and scalable African female-led and owned businesses. Pauline also has 10+ years’ experience catalyzing innovation and entrepreneurship across Africa and her passion lies in innovation, entrepreneurship, youth, and women’s economic empowerment.

A double Fulbright -Scholar and Fellow-, Pauline is currently serving on a variety of Boards of companies/organizations connected to business, entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa. Pauline holds an Executive Education in Innovation for Economic Development from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government; a Master’s Degree (MA) in Poverty and Development, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in International Studies (Honors) from the University of Arizona (UoA), USA.

You can reach Pauline at p.koelbl@shequity.com

Kim Campbell – Perspectives from a Prime Minister for ILI Insights

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Kim Campbell – Perspectives from a Prime Minister for ILI Insights

This week’s article written by Maureen Metcalf features some of the take-aways from her interview with former Prime Minister of Canada, Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell. This interview is part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series.  This series features speakers from the Annual ILA Conference that occurred in October of 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.  It is a companion to Kim’s interview on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast episode, Reimaging Our Leadership to be a Good Ancestor that aired on Tuesday, February 1st, 2022.

A 3-minute  clip with Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell

The full interview with Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell

I was honored to interview the Right Honorable Kim Campbell in Geneva in October 2021 at the International Leadership Association Conference.

I want to start this post with a quote from our conversation that stood out to me:

“I have to be encouraged at the capacity of human beings to be wonderful. To be brave. To be imaginative. To be generous. To be kind…” – Kim Campbell

This conversation was a spirited exchange about what is working and not and the solid invitation to do better now so we create the future we want to leave for those who will bear the consequence of our actions. The following blog captures several ideas we discussed and reflects her perspectives.

We started with the topic of leading as an ancestor. It’s a concept our ancestors bequeathed to us. But, unfortunately, we may well be the ancestors that screw it all up for future generations. For example, climate change, the rise in authoritarianism, and threats to democracy are all tied together and impact the ability of future generations to flourish and achieve their potential. Kim’s quote was, “We will never have a more fair and just future until we have a more fair and just history.”

Many of the problems facing society now are grounded in ignorance. Many people don’t like narratives that challenge our position. In many cases, if a person or group isn’t prototypical (women, minority, disabled, etc.), their stories fall off the radar screen. As an example, let’s look at women. At least 60 have been presidents, prime ministers, etc., yet few people know. It is difficult for even the best to advance in their careers, /research, /and other areas. Yet many made foundational contributions to science. So what knowledge did we lose from the women who didn’t have that neighbor, or that person giving them a way onto the path? When we don’t see them on our radar, ignorance says they shouldn’t be there. They haven’t earned the right because they “don’t do that sort of thing.” Yet, typically, they’ve contributed to their field, but it’s unacknowledged or uncredited. This ignorance leads to a personal worldview that’s exclusionary. How much we’ve forgotten about Islam’s contributions to math, science, medicine, architecture – including our sheer numbers! These contributions have been undervalued because of the rise of European (Eurocentric) empires and the regression of Islamic culture resulting from religious fundamentalism.

Ignorance lets us feel superiority, hatred, disdain. It’s never a smooth ride for women. Women are the canaries in the mine when it comes to people wanting to erode liberties. Maybe things have to be disastrous to consolidate the will of good people. We can’t be complacent because it doesn’t always work out if people do nothing.

One difference now vs. the past: we’re now looking at issues where the impact on future generations is knowable, significant, and very real. Greta Thunberg: You are stealing my future and not dealing with this. , be turning their heads and saying, “Nah, can’t deal with it?”

The perversions wrought by ignorance are dangerous. They put lives at risk and undermine evidence-based decision-making. We, as leaders, can’t solve real problems with uninformed conspiracy theories. 700,000 Americans alone have died of Covid; that’s unconscionable by any measure, but the inevitable result of so many people (both leaders and rank-and-file Americans) don’t believe the science. Much ignorance results from disinformation, which is increased by social media.

Thoughts on the “Me Too” movement. Sexual harassment is still much more prevalent than many people realize. It’s not just that many men think that women’s bodies are the spoils of power (which has been the case for a long time – see the opening of The Odyssey, for example). Also, when women pushed back on sexual advances, the men sought to destroy them. This pressure still exists today –vindictiveness to destroy a woman’s career. It’s all about power: companies to pursue business irrespective of the effect on climate, politicians to destroy democratic norms, to control other people’s bodies.

With all of the discussion of the challenges, there is also hope. For example, it isn’t true that older people are less interested in climate change. Boomers are prepared to do more to deal with the issue. We can use our brains, imagination, and strength to improve lives & make the world a better place.

Podcasts may be one answer to address ignorance. They can be more civil, informative, and heard in the listeners’ time. But how do you get someone to listen, especially if it offers a different point of view? One of the values of some podcasts is they can provide a deeper exploration of specific topics as the time isn’t limited by the short form conversations in many other media outlets.

Women in politics are gaining traction. Women are not viewed the same as men – they are under more of a microscope. This view is improving slowly, but it is improving. Angela Merkel was tremendously successful in Germany. She doesn’t fit the stereotype of a powerful woman: she wears glasses, no skirts, a wide variety of colors in her jackets, etc. She has been so successful and long-running that she’s re-written expectations of a political leader.

I sincerely appreciate the Right Honorable Kim Campbell taking an hour to talk about what she is thinking and exploring and what she invites each of us to consider. I was left with the questions:

How can I be a better ancestor for future generations? How can my choices leave the world and the world of work a better place? What resonated with you from her conversation?

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.


About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, the CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, is dedicated to elevating the quality of leaders globally.

Empowering Women for the Prosperity of Nations: Findings on Gender Equality by Country

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Empowering Women for the Prosperity of Nations: Findings on Gender Equality by Country

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This blog is an excerpt from The Gender Equality and Governance Index.  It is the Executive Summary and is provided to supplement the interview with Amanda Ellis and Augusto Lopez-Claros, as part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series.  It is a companion to their interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled GEGI: Empowering Women for the Prosperity of Nations that aired on Tuesday, April 13th, 2021.

Gender inequality has myriad faces: archaic laws that codify sexism, male control of joint income and household assets, exclusion from governance, trafficking and violence against women, denial of education and adequate health care, and gender segregation in the workforce, to name a few. The scope of inequality is vast and its costs to society are mounting.

COVID-19 has prompted new awareness around this topic, as the effects of the pandemic have exacerbated existing gender inequalities and revealed the importance of female inclusion in governance and decision-making. The evidence linking gender equality to economic and social well-being and prosperity is clear. Now more than ever, we must prioritize the role of women in fostering communities’ and countries’ well-being and economic health by developing policies that guard against gender discrimination.

The Gender Equality and Governance Index (GEGI; Figure 1 provides the index structure and its various components) was built with the understanding that indexes—despite their limitations—are tools to generate debate on key policy issues, to precipitate remedial actions, and to track progress. A well-designed composite indicator thus provides a useful frame of reference for evaluation, both between countries and over time. The GEGI analyzes data from a variety of international organizations and valuable survey data to achieve a broad-based and comparative understanding of gender discrimination on a global scale, using five critical “pillars”: governance, education, work, entrepreneurship, and violence. By breaking scores down into pillars, the GEGI allows policymakers to pinpoint specific areas for improvement.

The GEGI rankings for 2020 indicate a clear correlation between gender equality, economic prosperity, and inclusive leadership. Iceland ranks first in the world among the 158 countries included in the index, followed by Spain and Belgium. Canada (9) and New Zealand (16) are the only non-European countries to rank in the top 20. The highest-ranking country in East Asia is Taiwan (21), and Canada scores highest in the Americas. (See Appendix II for the rankings for the 158 countries included). Much further down the rankings, we find China (82) and India (100). Given that one out of three women on the planet lives in these two countries, gender inequality there is particularly troublesome. Sub-Saharan Africa makes up nearly one-half of the 50 lowest-ranking countries, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) comprise another one-third. Gender equality correlates strongly with higher levels of economic prosperity per capita, as 47 of the countries in the top 50 are either high or upper middle income. Rwanda (55) is the highest-scoring low-income country.

For the countries included in the index, higher levels of discrimination against women coincide with lower rates of labor force participation for women, lower rates of school enrolment for girls at the secondary level, lower numbers of women-owned businesses, and larger wage gaps between women and men. These findings should come as no surprise. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has argued that decreasing work-related gender inequalities can make “a positive contribution in adding force to women’s voice and agency,” thereby empowering women within both the public and private spheres.1 Countries that have integrated women into the workforce more rapidly have improved their international competitiveness.

2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, which envisioned gender equality in all dimensions of life – and yet not a single country has yet achieved it. Worse still, only eight countries have a legal framework that does not discriminate against women in some way, with a body of legislation supporting women’s economic equality, which benefits everyone. Achieving gender equality requires more than simply removing barriers to opportunity. Many decades after the women’s suffrage movement, women are still grossly underrepresented in executive and policymaking bodies. For gender equality to become a reality, with all its attendant benefits, the first step is ensuring women are equally represented at the highest levels of decision-making across a country.

Gender equality in governance requires both de jure and de facto progress. The GEGI evaluates the legal framework of a country and measures the extent of female inclusion in governance. Less than 5% of countries have gender balance in political governance. Female leadership in the justice system, the central bank, and the ministerial and executive levels of government is crucial, but notably lacking. Only 21 countries currently have a female head of state or government; only 14 have female central bank governors. Only one in four Parliamentarians is female and one in five a Minister. In the private sector, despite well-documented research on the financial benefits of the diversity dividend, a third of global boards have no women at all. To remedy this, countries have begun implementing quotas, often as temporary special measures, that reserve representation for women. For instance, after Argentina saw success with a quota requiring a minimum number of female candidates in national elections, many other Latin American countries followed suit.

While attempts to solve gender inequality through legislation, inclusion in decision-making, and quotas are necessary, they are by no means sufficient. A critical prerequisite for female leadership in governance is education. Since inequalities in education artificially reduce the pool of talent from which companies and governments can draw, a direct way to boost economic growth is to improve both the quality and quantity of human capital by expanding educational opportunities for girls. Cultural attitudes against female education continue to prevail, and investment in girls’ education is still far below that of boys. For instance, the World Bank reports that only 38 percent of girls in low-income countries enroll in secondary school, and nearly 500 million women remain illiterate. Research has conclusively proven the importance of education in expanding opportunities for women outside the home and the positive multiplier impact for families, communities and economies. The most competitive economies in the world are those where the educational system does not put women and girls at a disadvantage.

Gender inequalities in employment are also toxic to economic growth because they constrain the labor market, making it difficult for firms and businesses to scale up efficiently. Globally, only 47 percent of women are employed in the labor force, compared to over 70 percent of men. This gap is most stark in South Asia and the MENA region, where just over 20 percent of women are in formal employment. Including women in the work force requires a multifaceted approach. Incentives to work, including paid parental leave and childcare services, have proven effective in increasing female labor force participation. However, many working women remain segregated in female-dominated fields that tend to be lower paid and have fewer opportunities for advancement. Women continue to be excluded from managerial positions, and no country has succeeded in ensuring equal renumeration for work of equal value.

Given that just 7 percent of women in low income countries are employed as wage workers, entrepreneurship and self-employment is an equally important avenue for female empowerment. Women entrepreneurs could contribute significantly to economic innovation and growth if given access to the same training, capital, credit, and rights as men. Women face severe difficulty accessing financial accounts and securing credit; in fact, estimates from the International Finance Corporation suggest that women entrepreneurs face a financing deficit of $1.5 trillion. Because women tend to earn less and have fewer property rights than men, they have a harder time providing collateral to obtain a loan. Restrictions on mobility and cultural disapproval of women in business further discourage women from pursuing entrepreneurship.

Despite—and perhaps in response to—the progress that women have made in governance, education, and employment, they are experiencing violence at staggering rates. Women are most vulnerable to violence in cultures where long-held customs and fundamental prejudices place the culpability for violence on the women themselves. The cost that society incurs from violence against women is high. Gendercide has become an epidemic enacted through sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, and neglect and abuse of women throughout their lives. The result is a destabilizing gender imbalance in many countries—in India and China alone, men outnumber women by around 70 million. Furthermore, abuse of women has direct economic consequences, as it increases absenteeism and lowers productivity. Domestic violence is estimated to cost the United States $460 billion annually, more than any other crime. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this phenomenon, as reports of intimate partner violence have risen exponentially under mandatory lockdowns and quarantine.

COVID-19 has shone an uncompromising search light on global gender inequality, reminding us that gender discrimination has been undermining economic growth and wasting our human and planetary resources for far too long. The Gender Equality and Governance Index provides a scientifically evidence based, objectively verifiable diagnosis—now, action can no longer be delayed.

You can read the full report here.

1 Sen (1999), Development as Freedom, p. 191.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Authors

Amanda Ellis leads Global Partnerships for the exciting new ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. Previously New Zealand Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva (2013-16), Ms. Ellis also served as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy, playing a key role in New Zealand’s successful UN Security Council bid. The author of two best-selling Random House business books and five research titles on gender and growth in the World Bank Directions in Development series, Ms. Ellis is a founding member of the Global Banking Alliance for Women and the recipient of the TIAW Lifetime Achievement Award for services to women’s economic empowerment. She serves on a number of boards, including the Global Governance Forum.

Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Professor of Law, graduate of Yale Law School, and Founding Head of the Rackman Center at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, is a family law expert in both the civil legal system and traditional Jewish law, and has recently completed three terms as a member (twice Vice President) of the UN Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She publishes on family law in Israel, legal pluralism, feminism and halacha, and international women’s rights; is a recipient of numerous national and international grants and prizes. Professor Halperin-Kaddari serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Governance Forum.

Augusto Lopez-Claros is Executive Director of the Global Governance Forum. He is an international economist with over 30 years of experience in international organizations, including most recently at the World Bank. For the 2018-2019 academic years Augusto Lopez-Claros was on leave from the World Bank as a Senior Fellow at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Previously he was chief economist and director of the Global Competitiveness Program at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, where he was also the editor of the Global Competitiveness Report, the Forum’s flagship publication. Before joining the Forum he worked for several years in the financial sector in London, with a special focus on emerging markets. He was the IMF’s Resident Representative in Russia during the 1990s. Educated in England and the United States, he received a diploma in Mathematical Statistics from Cambridge University and a PhD in Economics from Duke University.

Inclusive Leadership During a Crisis: How to Lead Equitably and Compassionately

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Inclusive Leadership During a Crisis: How to Lead Equitably and Compassionately

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This blog is provided by Taryn Oesch DeLong, managing editor of digital content for Training Industry.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Research Findings on Women’s Access to Leadership Development that aired on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020.

“The coronavirus pandemic has cast an irrefutable spotlight on social and workplace inequity — and places an urgent demand on employers to lead responsibly and with compassion.”

This statement from a report by Time’s Up, the organization created by 300 women in the entertainment industry in response to the #MeToo movement, reflects a current concern of many leaders, especially those managing remote teams or creating leadership training programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interest in TrainingIndustry.com articles on topics related to leadership, supporting employees, managing in a crisis, and diversity and inclusion has increased in recent months — which is good. It means leaders, and learning and development (L&D) leaders in particular, are looking for ways to lead compassionately and equitably during a year that sometimes feels like a never-ending crisis.

In a recent article for TrainingIndustry.com, “Leading During a Crisis: Retooling Leadership,” Maureen Metcalf wrote that effective leaders, particularly during a crisis, have an “unwavering commitment to right action.” They identify the right course for the organization and its people, and they alter that course when needed. One right action, the importance of which has been highlighted by recent events, is inclusive leadership.

What Is Inclusive Leadership?

According to Training Industry’s glossary, “Inclusive leadership is present in organizations and leaders that make a concerted effort to promote and support diversity and equity in their teams and companies. Inclusive leaders create environments of transparency and psychological safety to encourage idea sharing and innovation by embracing perspectives from diverse backgrounds.”

In other words, leading inclusively means going beyond values statements and diversity pledges. It means ensuring equitable opportunities for all employees. It means creating an environment where people are valued for their intrinsic worth as human beings rather than on surface achievements or attributes. And, it means honoring each person’s unique gifts and contributions.

Why Is Inclusive Leadership So Important in a Crisis?

As months of COVID-19 have gone by, we’ve seen that the impacts of coronavirus have not been distributed equitably. People who already lived with inequities, such as people with disabilities and chronic health conditions and people of color, have been disproportionately affected both by the illness and by the economic fallout. And the challenges of working from home, often while managing a household with children and/or elderly family members, have placed an added burden on women, who already faced an often uphill climb to career success.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first crisis to have a harsher impact on disadvantaged groups of people, and it will not be the last. Fortunately, the more we develop leaders who know what it means to lead inclusively, the better equipped we will be to handle such crises in the future.

How Do Inclusive Leaders Support Their Employees?

Inclusive leaders not only strive to have teams that include diverse perspectives, but they also work deliberately to ensure that those diverse perspectives are honored and the people who share them feel that their gifts are valued and cultivated.

For example, Training Industry research has found that women who believe their managers support their career development are more likely also to have equitable access to leadership development when compared with men. This finding sounds obvious but is critical for organizations to understand, especially if they are to succeed during a crisis.

A manager’s job is not just to assign work and make sure it’s completed. In our current job market, workers are looking for jobs that go beyond putting food on the table and also provide them with development opportunities to grow their skills and advance their careers. LinkedIn Learning’s 2018 “Workplace Learning Report” found that 94% of employees would stay at their employer longer if it invested in their career, and the most common reason “employees feel held back from learning is because they don’t have the time” — in other words, their managers are not giving them support, in terms of time, to grow.

During the pandemic, employees who started working from home due to health and safety concerns found themselves with blurred lines between work and life, and many had to juggle their parenting or other caregiving responsibilities with their work responsibilities. With such demands on an employee’s time or energy, learning can all too easily fall by the wayside. During this crisis, inclusive leaders have sought with compassion to understand their team members’ needs and identify ways to support them. While it may have meant that their employees put less time in on the clock, it almost certainly meant that the work they did do was of a higher quality, because they were able to focus more of their energy on it.

How Can Organizations Develop Inclusive Leaders?

Including information on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in leadership training programs is important to developing inclusive leaders. DEI training is notoriously difficult to implement well, but in general, if a program goes beyond lip service, includes practical and relevant information, and is led by a credible instructor, it can be effective in cultivating inclusive leaders.

It’s also important to teach leaders how to coach and, especially, how to coach employees from underrepresented or disadvantaged groups. Coaching is an effective tool for behavior change and personal development. It also, according to Training Industry research, can bridge the gender gap in leadership development access. Female survey respondents who had received formal coaching reported almost equal levels of access to leadership development when compared to male respondents. Inclusive leadership training, then, helps managers learn how to provide personalized coaching that meets the unique needs and preferences of their female employees.

Finally, as Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson, author of “INCLUSIFY: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams,” wrote in a TrainingIndustry.com article, “If we are to train leaders to be inclusive, we need to know what makes people feel included.” Her research identified uniqueness and belongingness as keys to an inclusive culture. In a work-from-home pandemic workforce, the ability of leaders to understand team members’ unique needs and make sure they feel like they belong is more challenging — and more rewarding — than ever.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.


About the Author

Taryn Oesch DeLong is managing editor of digital content at Training Industry, where her work has received an APEX Award of Excellence and a Regional Bronze Azbee Award. She is also the co-host of “The Business of Learning,” the award-winning Training Industry podcast, and contributed to the 2020 book “Global Perspectives on Women’s Leadership and Gender (In)Equality” (Palgrave Macmillan). Taryn is the board secretary at The Power of the Dream, a nonprofit creating jobs for adults with autism and IDD in the Raleigh, N.C., area and a coach for Miracle League of the Triangle. She serves her faith community as managing editor of Catholic Women in Business and assistant editor and contributing writer for FemCatholic.

What is the Business Value for Women In Leadership? By Maureen Metcalf

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What is the Business Value for Women In Leadership? By Maureen Metcalf

This blog is a companion to the interview with Susan R. Madsen and Karen Longman on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on December 20, 2016, focusing on “Women in Leadership: Why it Matters and How to Develop It.” Susan and Karen, experts and advocates for women as leaders, talk about the role women leaders play in organizations, and how we help to develop and prepare girls and women to take leadership roles.

Until relatively recently, career women generally used men as role models, emulating them because they were often mentors. Early in my career I did just this. As times have changed, however, I have been trying to understand the value that we, as women leaders, bring to organizations by acting like women rather than, as I was taught, acting like men. By acting like men, we “leave part of our value on the table” because we travel through life in different bodies, being socialized differently and ultimately having different personal and professional experiences. By denying our own experiences, we leave a gap in our ability to lead effectively and minimize what we contribute to an organization.

According to Susan Madsen, “Organizations will increasingly thrive when both men and women hold management and leadership roles.”  I wanted to understand these benefits women bring to organizations in leadership and management roles so that I could make a well-researched case to our readers and listeners who may question the general statements that we should include more women in management and leadership because of their differences. Susan’s work quantifies specific value and provides extensive data to support her claims.

For the blog post, I quote Susan’s brief extensively, but not reference her sources. If you are interested in the specific sources, please reference her original work, Utah Women and Leadership Project Research and Policy Brief: “Why Do We Need More Women Leaders in Utah?” (January 12, 2015).

Susan cites five primary benefits that companies receive by building an organization that includes both men and women in leadership and management roles. The number or percentage of each gender depends on the environment.

1. Improved financial performance: “…companies with a market capitalization of more than $10 billion and with women board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 percent worldwide.” In another reference, research “…showed the following benefits: higher operating results, better stock growth, better economic growth, higher market-to-book value, better corporate governance and oversight, improved corporate sustainability, and overall increased profitability.”

2. Strengthening organizational culture: “…the Corporate Leadership Council discovered a link connecting commitment to diversity and inclusion with the level of employee engagement.” The study cites several other examples of the impact women in leadership roles have on a company’s culture. “Women leaders also tend to look more carefully at issues of fairness in policies and practices for all employees. A Chinese study found that boards with higher numbers of women were less likely to violate security regulations and to commit fraud.” And finally, “inclusive leadership styles, most commonly found in women, are also linked to reduced turnover and improved performance of diverse teams.”

3. Increased corporate social responsibility and organizational reputation: “…the Committee for Economic Development argues that having more women on boards helps companies better engage with society.” Another study found “companies viewed as ethical or good corporate citizens were more likely to have more women board directors than companies without those reputations. Internal culture and practices can strengthen organizational reputation.” (Utah Women & Leadership Blog: “Increasing CSR and Organizational Reputation,” June 5, 2015.)

4. Leveraging Talent: Both male and female qualities are necessary for effective organizations, although the specific situation dictates which qualities are most effective in any given setting. “Women tend to be more holistic rather than linear thinkers. They usually look for win-win instead of win-lose solutions and are often more process-oriented than men are.” In addition to being more holistic, “Women are also known to be more sensitive to nonverbal communication cues and are often more comfortable with ambiguity.” Finally, when looking at another study, “Researchers looked at data from 7,000 leaders and found that, according to subordinates, peers, and superiors, women outperformed men on 12 of 16 measures of outstanding leadership competencies and scored the same as men in the other four. Most significantly, women’s scores lead those of men in taking initiative, practicing self-development, displaying high integrity and honesty, and driving for results.”

5. Enhancing innovation and collective intelligence: “…research findings revealed that the ‘number of women in the group significantly predicted the effective problem-solving abilities of the group overall.’ As with other studies, the researchers also found that the collective intelligence of the group exceeded the cognitive abilities and aptitudes of the individual members of the group. This collective intelligence is critical to effective decision making and problem solving, as well as high levels of innovation and creativity.”

These data make a strong case that including the right women in leadership and management roles improves organizational performance, and are held true globally and across a broad range of organizations.

For organizations looking for leverage points to improve performance, you may be missing a significant differentiator if you have not evaluated your polices on developing, recruiting, and retaining women.

If you are looking for additional information, the International Leadership Association, in concert with Information Age Publishing, launched a new book series: Women and Leadership: Research, Theory, and Practice. This series asks provocative questions about the status quo, encouragers and discouragers to women’s leadership advancement, explores what strategies are working, and if the “pipeline” is a helpful metaphor for addressing the challenges that still confront high-potential women.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

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