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Images of female role models empower and inspire women leaders, says study

22 Apr

Who’d have thought that looking at a photo of a powerful female role model, like Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel, could inspire women to become more successful leaders. But a new study – Successful female leaders empower women’s behaviour in leadership tasks – shows that exposure to female role models can improve women’s performance in leadership tasks.

Men and women were asked to give a speech while being exposed to a photo of Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Bill Clinton or not picture. The speeches were measured in terms of length and quality. Women spoke longer (and were there perceived to give a better speech) when they were exposed to the photo of Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel. But they spoke less, and their speeches were rated to be of lower quality, when Bill Clinton or no picture was shown.

The researchers concluded: “Subtle exposures to highly successful female leaders inspired women’s behavior and self-evaluations in stressful leadership tasks.”

Whose face would inspire and empower you when you have to make a stressful speech…?

Cheers to the new vintage of women sommeliers

15 Apr
Women are increasingly taking the wine world by storm. (pic: )

Women are increasingly taking the wine world by storm. (pic:

I love the thought of women breaking the stuffy ranks of male-dominated industries, which is why it was a delight to read this Bloomberg article: Women pull corks as female sommeliers take over cellars.

Maybe it’s female intuition, the ability to ‘read a table’ or her non-confrontational manner when discussing a wine list with customers. There’s probably no single reason, but the new vintage of sommeliers in New World and Old World is becoming increasingly female.

The article quotes figures from the Institute of Masters of Wine showing that there are 87 women out of 287 masters of wine across the world. And new masters coming through are more likely to be female than male. And in the US, a restaurant group says 40% of its sommeliers are women.

It quotes beverage director Liz Nicholson from a major New York hotel saying that the female touch has made wine drinking and ordering much less elitist: “Women sommeliers have really helped remove being so uptight about ordering wine,” she says.

I’ll certainly drink to that.

Is progress for women leaders a ‘false dawn’, asks Cranfield

12 Apr

In boardrooms across the UK, complacency is once again setting in. After an initial surge of female board appointments, the pace of change has considerably slowed.

The Female FTSE Board Report 2013 from the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders is titled: ‘False dawn of progress for women leaders’? It shows that in the first six months after the last report was published in March 2012 that 44% of new FTSE 100 board appointments went to women. But that progress has not been sustained. In the last six months, just 26% of FTSE board appointments were female, and 29% of FTSE 250 board places went to women. Cranfield said this drop was “worrying”.

Overall, the figures look like this:

  • 169 women hold 194 female-held directorships in 93 FTSE 100 boardrooms.
  • This total equals 17.3%, higher than last year’s 15%.
  • There are now seven FTSE 100 companies with all-male boards.
  • Two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies have more than one woman on their board.
  • Burberry is the only company to have two female executive directors.
  • 73% of FTSE 250 companies have women on their boards, up from last year’s 54%

Commenting on Cranfield’s Female FTSE report, its co-author Professor Susan Vinnicombe OBE said: “At Cranfield we have stood steadfast against quotas on the basis that chairmen must understand the benefits of gender diversity and commit to achieving it.  Undoubtedly a number of chairmen do get it and see a gender balanced board as the ‘new normal’.  Unfortunately too many chairmen choose to ignore the issue in the false hope that it will go away.  Viviane Reding’s demanding legislation is on its way and it goes far beyond Lord Davies’ recommendations. It is becoming a matter of urgency for those companies that do not have a gender balanced board to let go of their board stereotypes and appoint more creatively.”

The true legacy of the Olympic Games is the new generation of female role models

12 Aug

Speak to any woman about the Olympic Games, and she’ll tell you she aspires to have a six-pack stomach like Jessica Ennis. Ask any little girl who she’d like to be when she grows up, and – when she’s finished cartwheeling and doing handstands – she’ll say she wants to win a medal like Beth Tweddle.

I can’t hear any child saying she aspires to put on pretend lashes, fake tan and pose half naked for a men’s magazine. The women who won the medals did so through determination, dedication and a desire to develop their talents as far as they will go – and then push them some more.

London 2012 has been a defining moment for female role models. (pic:

London 2012 is defined as being the moment when women came to the fore, gave their all, and walked away with armfuls of medals – becoming role models in the process. More than a third (36%) of Team GB medals in these Olympic Games have been won by women.

And, perhaps more importantly for role models for the future, Continue reading

Fortune 500 listing has highest ever number of female CEOs

9 May

There are now 18 female chief executives in the Fortune 500 in the US – the highest number of women to secure a position in this influential listing.

CNN’s Leading Women report on Meet Fortune 500’s Female Powerbrokers gives a rundown of who’s made it this year, including Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard (in 10th position) and Ginni Rometty from IBM (in 19th). There are a further 21 female CEOs in the Fortune 501-1000 listing.

As CNN rightly points out, this is great progress, but there is still some way to go to improve the number of women on boards. Does this lie in the hands of the female CEOs who’ve made it? Will they – as suggested by Baroness Goudie, founder of the 30% Club, in the CNN report – encourage chairman to include more female candidates when selecting board members, and become role models to the women moving up the ranks?

Oxford Uni gives assertiveness coaching to female undergrads to boost career prospects

27 Apr

Female undergraduates at Oxford University are to benefit from assertiveness coaching to make sure they don’t lag behind men when it comes to negotiating in the jobs marketplace.

The Oxford Student reports that 45 women will take part in four days of classes – carried out by the Springboard Women Development Programme – to boost their self-confidence and give them the tools and belief to pitch for high-powered jobs once they graduate. It will teach them how to handle conflict, negotiation, and surviving in challenging environments.

With female graduates typically earning £3,000 less than their male counterparts, this programme has come at a good time for the women – whether they choose to opt for top-notch jobs in the City or not.

Quoted in the Telegraph on this story, Jenny Daisley, chief executive of the Springboard Consultancy, said the skills learned would be valuable whatever choices the women make. “The undergraduate sitting quiet as a mouse in supervision, giving the impression that they have not got anything to say, may have lots to say but needs positive advice so that they are not invisible.”

Opportunity Now Awards 2012 celebrate competitive advantage of gender equality

19 Apr

The key message from the Opportunity Awards 2012 was that gender equality is not about ‘tokenism’ but about hiring and nurturing the best talent to promote competitive advantage.

The Awards by Opportunity Now – – the gender quality campaign by Business in the Community – were set up “to recognise private and public sector organisations that have put gender issues at the core of their business agendas and are committed to creating inclusive workplaces for women at all levels”.

The winners this year included:

  • BT for the Transparency Award, for being one of the first to publish its gender metrics.
  • Dell for Agile Organisation, for its ‘Connected Workplace’, allowing 65% of employees to work remotely.
  • Diageo for the Female FTSE Award, because it has 44.4% female board representation.
  • Credit Suisse, for Advancing Women in the Workplace Award for its Mentoring Advisory Group initiative.

Helena Morrissey CBE, CEO of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% Club, won the Champion Award.

Opportunity Now chair Alison Platt, CMG, divisional managing director, Europe and North America for Bupa, said: “This agenda is about utilising the best talent to gain competitive advantage; it is not about tokenism. For more than two decades, Opportunity Now has been working with leading businesses that recognise the tangible benefits of a diverse and fully engaged workforce. These employers understand that creating workplaces that work for women is a commercial imperative, not a women’s issue. All the Opportunity Now Awards winners should be commended for the innovative and impactful way they are embedding diversity and equality into their long-term business strategy.”

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