Happy New Year to all. As we prepare to move beyond and build on the learnings of the previous year, one thing is clear: 2017 is poised to be a year of great change—and in many ways disruptive change—for our organizations, our communities, and our society.
In keeping with this observation, I have noticed a related trend. In my recent talks at conferences and executive forums, it has become clear that many more corporate leaders at all levels are paying increased attention to gender equality and approaching the topic with greater intentionality. This is a smart move for the 21st century, since we now have substantial data and physiological evidence that 50-50 leadership produces greater ROI, productivity, and employee engagement.
The year has also kicked off with a growing chorus of voices in both traditional and social media predicting that 2017 will be the “Year of the Woman.” I’d like to add to this chorus, since I believe that timing, circumstances, and zeitgeist support this. Here’s why:
- The conversation is changing. Based on our work experience, we are finding that there is greater interest in and adherence to gender-balanced leadership. This is not just anecdotal but is evident in SHAMBAUGH Leadership’s observation of an accelerating increase in requests by our corporate clients to support them in achieving gender balance within their organizations.
- There is compelling interest in the business case for gender balance. More organizations are putting greater muscle into finding systemic ways to create gender equality. More women are becoming bolder and stepping confidently into leadership roles. And more men are supporting gender equality because they recognize its value proposition.
- Leaders are ready to move beyond traditional solutions. The solutions traditionally offered to address achieving gender parity have not worked, and executives across a diverse range of industries now recognize this fact. With this in mind, many companies are embracing Inclusive Leadership as a new model that is designed to bring all voices on deck. This type of Integrated Leadership can create more inclusive organizations that reflect a broader spectrum of ideas and yield better business results. One step you can take is to learn about how your organization, men, and women can engage together to achieve Integrated Leadership in my recent book, Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results. Another is to ask these questions as an organization:
- How balanced is my leadership team in terms of strengths and skill sets?
- Does my team composition provide a wide enough spectrum of thinking styles, traits, dispositions, and behaviors to ensure we are achieving integrated outcomes? What do we have, and what is missing?
- Does each team member understand his or her thinking style—as well as thinking styles of others on the team—and the importance of harnessing those areas of excellence to attain maximum results and ultimate success? How can I help my team gain greater awareness in this area, and encourage team members to take appropriate action based on what they know about each person’s work styles and preferences?
- What can I do to attain greater gender balance and take advantage of the Integrated Leadership model to ensure that I maximize the potential of all my team members?
In closing, my New Year’s message to each and every one of you is that this is indeed the Year of the Woman. Though we still have a ways to go, more organizations are developing, advancing, and retaining their female talent—not because it is a nice thing to do, but it is a smart business thing to do! Watch closely as more and more women become part of leadership teams, engage in venture start-ups, and participate in the boardroom, and see what you can do as a leader this year on your teams and in your company to build on this growing momentum.
I want to hear from you: What are you hearing as the new narrative regarding 2017 as the Year of the Woman? What are you hearing around not just women, but about the concept of gender balance as a whole?
Rebecca is an internationally acclaimed and sought-after keynote speaker, leadership expert and contributing editor for Harvard Business Review and the Huffington Post.
Learn more about SHAMBAUGH’s leadership solutions and how they can build and sustain gender balance across your organization. Accelerate your female talent through SHAMBAUGH’s customized In-House Leadership Programs for women and our signature Women in Leadership and Learning (WILL) Program. For more information visit: www.shambaughleadership.com
Rebecca is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor, Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton, and Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results.