Countering the Depressing Data with Necessary Skills and Action
Dan Heath, coauthor of Switch and several other beloved business titles, believes that big data must always be held in conversation with anecdotal information. “Data are just summaries of thousands of stories,” Heath notes, adding, “tell a few of those stories to help make the data meaningful.” He’s right, of course. While information is the “fuel” of the modern era, what we do with the fuel is what really matters.
For example, consider the quest for gender equity in the workplace. The wide gender gaps in salary and leadership positions in business are well documented. On average, women make 17% less than their males counterparts working in lateral positions. When one compares men’s and women’s salaries for the same education, experience, job title etc., women earn 91 cents for every dollar made by male counterparts. The gap in leadership is even more staggering. A 2022 survey of 8000 international companies found that only 5.4% of CEO positions were held by women. Sigh. I can go on, and on. The data paints a bleak picture of gender equity in the workplace. But what if we actually did something with the data? What if we started balancing the grim numbers with highlights of all the spectacular gifts women bring to the workplace? Yes… let’s do that instead of getting deflated by the numbers.
Dolly Parton once said, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are an excellent leader.” Parton was alluding to the so-called “people skills” (I hate the term “soft skills”) like empathy, communication skills, and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion that can change the world. In the workplace, these same people skills inspire employees and built trust on teams. Women are highly adept at infusing their leadership approach with all the above.
Beth Jannery, CEO of Titan Strategic Communication, believes women’s willingness to show their vulnerability – their humanity – in greater degree than male counterparts nourish a culture of transparency, affirmation, and emotional strength. Jannery notes, “As women leaders, we can be strong through truth and authenticity, and we don’t need to be hard and tough and condescending to lead a team.” Practicing empathy doesn’t mean one is a push-over leader; it means the leader understands that every member of the team is more than a spoke on a wheel. Where there’s empathy, there’s passion for the work and fidelity to the business.
In her role as CEO of Unicorn Jazz, Lisa Caprelli recognizes that effective communication connecting all stakeholders to organizational identity leads to organizational success. Caprelli knows that employees who believe in the value of their work will become better workers. She says, “A woman who communicates her vision well means that she gains and connects with people who are proud to support her mission.” Coupled with empathy, the leader’s communication acumen can create substantial buy in, or support, from the various members of the team. Women seem especially gifted at personalizing communication, offering personal vignettes about life and work that are relatable and repeatable.
Commitment to DEI
Andreea Vanecker of SPARX5 asserts that a human-centred approach to leadership promotes a healthy work environment, keeps employees engaged, and improves the business’s bottom line. Vanecker says it’s on leaders to “create all the conditions necessary for (the) business to succeed while having collaborative, inclusive environments where personal autonomy, psychological safety and transparency are strong.” Ultimately, effective DEI is about commitment and conditions. Great women in leadership understand that archaic, patriarchal systems kept amazing people on the sidelines of business for far too long. These leaders are committed to hiring and supporting a diverse workforce and ensuring that all employees enjoy support that is both professionally and personally fulfilling.
The data is terrible, but the stories beneath the give us hope. Great women build and sustain great businesses.