By Sharon Ngugi // Marketing Manager Nairobi Garage
Female entrepreneurship isn’t just a hallmark of the modern era, this is a culmination of hard work since as early as the 17th century, where women have been forging their own paths in a variety of trades.
From working on the farms to small merchants, ironmasters, or even dressmakers, these historic women shattered glass ceilings and broke stereotypes to rise to the top of their industries.
Until the mid-last century women in large numbers discovered that they liked working, earning money, and gaining recognition for their talents.
While they demanded to be treated equally to men in order to succeed in business, this brought with it another problem where women believed they basically had to become like men and compete with them for the prized senior roles.
Given that historically most workplaces have been male-dominated for a very long time, essentially women in business or leadership positions operated from a masculine paradigm where the focus is on winning, power, and the bottom line, with little consideration to anything else.
However, women now more than ever need to realize and appreciate the fact that they are wired differently from their counterparts.
The narrative is slightly changing though, today women entrepreneurs’ statistics show that 252 million entrepreneurs out of approximately 582 million in the world are female. Added to 153 million women who have already been running businesses, we can see the impact of women on business.
On leadership, research also shows that women now account for 41% of the global workforce and control more than $20 trillion in annual spending. Predictions are that this number will go up to $28 trillion in the next few years.
While there is so much effort that has been put in in the past 20 years, to have the number of women-owned businesses rise to about 114 percent, women still face hostility in the workplace, hence inadvertently encouraging them to internalize their own discrimination, leading them to blame themselves for getting passed over for raises, eased out of jobs, not getting called for job interviews, and being denied promotions. So where could the problem be?
Remember how for a long time the glass ceiling was a term used to describe the limiting factor keeping women out of the C-suite.
Exit Glass Ceiling enter Broken Rung. Women continue to face a broken rung at the first step up to a managerial position: for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted.
The term “broken rung” was coined following a five-year study by McKinsey & Company and Sheryl Sandberg through LeanIn.Org.
Data from 590 companies showed that women in entry-level jobs were less likely to be promoted to the first level of managerial positions.
This, in turn, limits the number of women available for promotion into higher levels of management and dramatically shrinks the diverse talent pool available.
As a result, men outnumber women significantly at the manager level, which means that there are far fewer women to promote to higher levels.
The broken rung likely explains why the representation of women at the senior manager, director, and vice-president levels has improved more slowly than the pipeline overall.
Many women are hardwired to desire collaboration and operate from a place of compassion, empathy, and intuition values that most men in leadership may not harbor. These I tend to call our superpowers.
What if there are different ways that we can use these values to bring our power, lean in, what we see as our weaknesses to position ourselves and bring out our power as women;
I believe it is also time for women to stop competing with men and start embracing their unique brilliant feminine skills and capabilities to add to the corporate equation.
Intuition: Though of course both men and women have intuition, there may actually be science behind why we refer to it as “women’s intuition.”
Intuition has long been ignored in the workplace in favor of hard data and facts.
The truth is that you need both in order to be innovative and successful. Listening to your own intuition, or what I call “heartbeat moments,” is quite key in scaling up the success ladder be it while handling clients or even employees.
Caregiving: In my opinion, the best leaders today are caregivers, regardless of whether they’re a man or a woman.
Caregiving has traditionally been viewed as a feminine quality because it’s been associated with mothering.
A caregiver in the workplace is simply someone who nurtures their team’s talent and inspires the best kind of work ethic with values, purpose, and passion.
Empathy: In a world where there is so much going on, being empathetic is equally important. While most times women have been told that there is no room for emotion in the boardroom, empathy and emotion are needed for success in the workplace.
One of the values that effective leaders embody is being empathic and emotional because people want to feel heard and understood, and these traits are needed to connect on a human level.
As a leader, you have to have empathy and curiosity to understand who someone is at their core: their goals, fears, aspirations, passions, insecurities—all of it.
Then you can help them double down on their strengths and overcome their barriers, so they can make an impact that is authentic to them and of value to the business.
Collaboration: There is power in collaboration. The masculine tends to be more, ‘I did this, I did that.’ In general, women tend to talk more in the ‘we,’ because we realize that the power of the team is diversity and the best teams have different kinds of skills and thought leadership at the table. If we were all the same, companies wouldn’t evolve.
Own your strengths and don’t be afraid to bring your feminine side to the business world.
The workplace and the world need you to lead the way by following your heartbeat moments, showing up with empathy, and channeling the power of collaboration. These are your superpowers that will pave the way for change.
It is important to recognize that both men and women develop strong leadership skills when they tap into both their masculine and feminine energy. It is not an either-or but a combination that makes the most powerful leaders.
We believe it’s time to be bold and lead like women. You will feel better, see better results from your team and create a more engaged, happier workforce.