A shocking article piqued my interest this week. The article published by McKinsey Quarterly back in September 2014 titled, “Can Women Fix Capitalism?” authored by Joanna Barsh a senior partner at the firm, shares insights as to how “Gender equality at the top of business has stalled, and trust in business is alarmingly low. Putting more women in charge could well be the key to a better future for business and society alike,” says Barsh. Wow!
While Barsh’s take on this topic isn’t really that earth shattering, she raised some very valid arguments that warrant some consideration. Income inequality is still cause for concern however; without doubt women of today versus the women of fifty years ago, have made huge strides in the private and public sectors, but is it enough? Barsh believes that it isn’t. And she should know. She was one of the first 1,000 women students to graduate from Harvard Business School.
Barsh presents a strong business case to back up her assertion that tapping into the capabilities of women can and is the key to a change in the game of capitalism. She says that women bring improved decision making, more creativity and innovation, and better problem solving, stemming from greater cognitive diversity.
Now, to my male readers, don’t stop reading just yet. Success in business and in life requires collaboration of both men and women. No single gender can solve the world’s problems. Even Barsh acknowledges this as she shares her dream of a world where “women and men together lead as equals, delivering meaningful impact over the long term.”
The fulfillment of Barsh’s dream is far from becoming a reality but this in part due to a lack of information being shared regarding the valuable contributions women are currently making in businesses today. Certainly there is not a lack of women in leadership. This has been evidenced by the percentage increase of women leading major corporations. In the United States alone, women hold more than half the college diplomas and Fortune 500 entry-level professional jobs. They also occupy 16.9 percent of the board seats at Fortune 500 companies. Only 13 percent of Fortune 1000 boards in the United States remain “men only” clubs. But 19 percent of Fortune 1000 companies have three or more women on their boards. This information comes from Catalyst, a global leader in research.
On the flip side of the coin, only 24 women lead Fortune 500 companies, and the share of female senior executives at these companies hasn’t significantly budged in the past three years, according to Barsh. So the question now becomes, how can the role women play in business be maximized to the level where it would impact the global economy?
A 2014 study conducted by Edelman (Edelman Trust Barometer Executive Summary), the world’s largest public relations firm examined the state of trust globally in businesses and governments. The results were alarming. In short, people don’t trust businesses or governments. Why is this study relative to Barsh’s research? She believes that the key to increasing the level of trust in businesses and governments is by “putting more women in charge.”
After much research Barsh and Susie Cranston, another consultant at McKinsey, co-authored a book entitled How Remarkable Women Lead. In this book the authors speaks to a new form of leadership called “centered leadership”. I was not familiar with the term so I decided to do my own research. What I discovered was not what I had expected.
In their book they established that there are links between “joy, happiness, and distinctive performance” in this Centered Leadership approach. After the publication of the book, Barsh continued her research and identified 5 key characteristics of centered-leaders:
- They lead from a core of meaning by tapping into strengths and building shared purpose, with a long-term vision for positive impact
- They reframe challenges as learning opportunities by shifting underlying mind-sets to replace reactive behavioral patterns
- They leverage trust to create relationships, community, and a strong sense of belonging
- They mobilize others through hope, countering fears to take risks and to act boldly on opportunities
- They infuse positive energy and renewal through deliberate practice to sustain high performance
What was even more surprising is that in the centered-leadership model, both men and women play a pivotal role as change agents. Barsh contends that the core principles of centered leadership if embraced by both men and women can create profound organizational changes.
Defining leadership or recognizing good leadership can be difficult because not all leaders are alike. However, if the focus is based on a set of core capabilities, we may see a world where the evolution of leadership can bring about increased trust in businesses and governments, and ultimately lead to a world were there is true equality amongst the sexes.
Billie Bowe is the President and CEO of Benchmark Consulting Services Ltd., a management consulting firm with expertise in human resources management. We believe in a global, strategic approach to management consulting. As our clients’ needs change and evolve, we offer solutions that grow along with them. We work as ‘business partners’ with our clients bringing about innovative solutions that are aligned with their business goals and objectives.
Photo courtesy of Dionysius Burton [FLICKR]