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#LeadLikeAGirl: Unleash the Potential of Women

by Tacy Byham, Ph.D.

Lead Like A GirlThere’s a single word we need to start using to reframe our entire discussion about women in leadership: potential.

As International Women’s Day approaches on March 8, that’s the word that has constantly come to my mind as I reflect on both the pain and progress of the women’s movement in the past year.

On the positive side, we are seeing women unleash their potential in unprecedented ways around the world. In the U.S., millions of women have shown up to make their voices heard in women’s marches across the nation. We saw in New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announce her pregnancy while serving in office. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, women’s groups played a key role in securing peace and equal political representation in 2017.

In the world of sports and pop culture, we saw women emerge as an incredible force to be reckoned with. The U.S. women’s national hockey team announced plans to boycott the world championship, enabling them to successfully negotiate for a raise—and then went on to win gold last month at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The female-directed and female-driven movie Wonder Woman became the highest-grossing superhero origin film of all time. And as Oprah became the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. de Mille award at the 2018 Golden Globes, she officially declared it “a new day for women.”

At the same time that we saw this wave of women unleash their potential, we also saw women come forward with the deeply disturbing stories of the #MeToo movement. While it started in the entertainment industry, it quickly became clear just how pervasive the problem has been across industries.

As I think about these stories of trauma, combined with the stories of strength and triumph of women, I can’t help but think about all the potential that may have been wasted along the way. How many brilliant filmmakers, musicians, senators, athletes, journalists, entrepreneurs, scientists, and other world-changing innovators have we missed out on because they were women?

When we see what women can accomplish in the face of adversity, imagine the potential that we could unleash if we enabled women to spend more energy leading and innovating, and wasting less energy on just surviving.

There's no question that a big part of the solution is to get more women in leadership roles to help shape a more equitable workplace. Over and over again, our data shows that having more women in leadership leads to better business and financial results, which takes the problem beyond just being a women’s issue to being a business issue.

Our Global Leadership Forecast 2018, released recently in partnership with The Conference Board and EY, showed that organizations with more women—including at least 20 percent in senior leadership roles—are 1.4 times more likely to experience sustained, profitable growth.

Furthermore, we saw the reasons why organizations with more women leaders perform better. Leaders in organizations that have more gender diversity are:

  • 1.5 times more likely to work across organizational boundaries and create synergies in their efforts.
  • Twice as likely to collaborate to create new solutions, and say that multiple perspectives determine success.
  • 1.7 times more likely to have leadership strength across their organizations.
  • More likely to experiment and embrace failure in pursuit of innovation.

These benefits didn’t come from the fact that women are necessarily more skilled at leadership. In fact, our High-Resolution Leadership study definitively showed that men and women are equally skilled at leadership. However, women experience a number of barriers to leadership, one of which is a lack of confidence. As we can see from the data, creating a more inclusive environment that removes these barriers has a tremendous benefit for both men and women.

On International Women’s Day (March 8th), I will be giving a virtual keynote, “#LeadLikeAGirl: Power Moves to Unleash the Potential of Women.” The goals for the keynote are two-fold. The first is to ignite women’s confidence to pursue leadership. The second is to include men in the solution and provide practical tips for becoming better mentors, leaders, co-workers, and parents to unleash the potential of this generation of women and the next.

Learn how DDI can help you accelerate and advance your women leaders to ignite impact.

Tacy Byham, Ph.D. is DDI’s chief executive officer and co-author of Your First Leadership Job: How Catalyst Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others.

Posted: 01 Mar, 2018,
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