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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…?


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.”

Welsh government commits to 40% quota for women on public boards

4 Mar

The Welsh government has set a target for women to make up 40% of public appointments, according to a report on the BBC website.

While most organisations have stopped short of applying quotas to encourage more women into senior positions, the Welsh government points to the example of Sport Wales. The body trebled the number of women applying to join its board after making the application wording and process more ‘gender friendly’. T board went from eight men and one woman to five women and nine men in 2012.

Equalities Minister Jane Hutt says Sport Wales sets an ideal example for other organisations to follow. The BBC quotes her as saying: “”Our programme for government includes a commitment to ensure that at least 40% of appointments to public roles in Wales are women, but we need all organisations to play their part in helping us achieve this ambitious target.”

This announcement comes days before International Women’s Day 2013. Expect lots more debate on the pros and cons of boardroom gender quotas.

Women on the board are good for business

5 Aug

Companies with at least one woman on their boards outperform those with no women at the top table. That’s according to a study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute.

womaneer women on the board

Having women on the board improves company performance by 26%. (pic:

Its report Gender Diversity and Corporate Performance analysed the performance of 2,400 companies with and without female board directors over six years. Its main conclusion during that period is that companies with at least one woman on the board outperform companies with no women on the board by 26% – and they perform better when markets are falling.

Why is this? The report identifies six reasons why gender diversity is good for business:

  1. It’s a sign of a better company, and is a signal that the business is already doing well.
  2. A diverse board makes all members of the board put in a better performance.
  3. It gives a better balance of leadership skills, because women are generally good at mentoring and coaching.
  4. It gives access to a wider talent pool.
  5. It’s a better reflection of the consumer decision maker.
  6. More women improve corporate governance.

The report concludes: “The debate around the topic has shifted from an issue of fairness and equality to a question of superior performance. If gender diversity on the board implies a greater probability of corporate success then it would make sense to pursue such an objective regardless of any government directive.”

Number of women in senior technology roles plummets

16 May

The IT sector is losing women from its senior ranks, in spite of the innovation and creativity the female touch is said to bring to technology.

More than half (56%) of US chief information officers (CIOs) in the Harvey Nash/Telecity Group 2012 CIO survey said they were suffering a talent shortage, and 90% were concerned about retaining staff.

When it comes to the lack of female talent, the figures tell the story: just 9% of CIOs are women, down from 11% last year and 12% in 2010. Almost a third of CIOs say they have no women in management within their IT organisations – in spite of the fact that comments in the survey say that “the most important value women add to the IT function is their ability to form good relationships with the business, and almost half say that women bring innovation and creativity to technology”.

“Fewer women are attracted into that space, so you end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Anna Frazzetto, senior vice president of international technology solutions at Harvey Nash USA, quoted in a Reuters article. “It’s not a very welcoming arena to be in.”

This article on LifeInc Where are all the powerful female nerds? analyses some of the factors behind why women aren’t attracted to a career in IT – and why they don’t stay.

Women aren’t getting a fair crack at leadership in SMEs

15 May

The glass ceiling remains well and truly intact within the Australian SME sector, with limited opportunities for women to have a crack at leadership.

So says a report from Australian businesswomen’s organisation Chief Executive Women (CEW) carried out in conjunction with Dun & Bradstreet. Its conclusion from surveying 1200 Australian CEOs was that 75% of SMEs had no women in their senior management teams – and had no intention of appointing any women, either.

More than 65% of SMEs were not requiring women to be on the shortlist for leadership roles – even though many major firms have committed to achieving 40% female representation at senior management level over the next year. Australia is lagging behind other countries in terms of gender equality, and there have been calls to improve targets.

Non-executive director and former CEO of Dun & Bradstreet, Christine Christian, said the survey results revealed the size of the challenge. “Just 22% of businesses have appointed, or intend to appoint, at least one woman to a senior management position. SMEs represent the largest employer by number in Australia, so it is critical that we support them to improve the levels of gender diversity in senior management and the productivity benefits that flow from that,” she said.

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?

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