Diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) are acknowledged pillars of modern society and integral to the architecture of commercial business success. Gender diversity is typical of enlightened businesses, with recent statistics evidencing that increasing the proportion of corporations led by women leads to better overall representation of women in boardrooms, ultimately increasing profits and boosting the world economy.
According to the Economist and McKinsey Global Institute, bridging gender gaps, hours worked and productivity would make the world economy $28.4 trillion (or 26%) richer, underscoring the potential of enhanced female contribution.
Embracing diversity brings a wider skillset to the table. According to research published by the American Economic Association, having more female board directors adds specific functional expertise that is often missing from corporate boards. Female leadership has also been proven to de-risk firm performance by reducing the likelihood of reputational scandals, and by improving CSR and ESG credentials.
Progressive firms recognise the importance of DE&I, and current recruitment patterns reflect that diverse boardrooms are high performing and profitable.
Gender diversity is certainly something we’re actively working on at IQ-EQ. Currently, 52% of IQ-EQ’s global workforce is female with 54% of recent senior hires (including IQ-EQ Jersey’s new MD) and 56% of promotions being women.
With all of the above in mind, women should feel confident in their professional identities and in their ability to be effective leaders. And yet, only 38% of women see themselves as having opportunity for leadership in their current careers, with the vast majority of both men and women agreeing that it’s easier for men to reach top leadership positions than equally qualified women.
In this article, I take a look at further merits of increased female representation in senior leadership ranks and outline the work that still needs to be done to get gender diversity where it needs to be.
A nurturing approach to leadership
A woman’s perspective is generally accepted to be more empathetic and imaginative. The Economist recently noted that women tend intuitively to be less corrupt and more moral than men.
Women are often blessed with a more pronounced emotional intelligence; a characteristic closely aligned with nurturing co-operative behaviours, boosting teamwork and encouraging broader participation in overcoming challenges. This is demonstrated in Forbes’ analysis of the emotional and mental benefits of having an increased percentage of female representation in the workplace.
Overtly aggressive leadership can destroy teams and impact employees’ mental health. But evidence points to the fact that female-led environments more usually usher in a culture of open communication where people are more likely to be authentic – thus resulting in an increase in collaboration and innovation, as well as better staff engagement and retention.
DE&I therefore leads more firms to invest in innovation and to take more of a stance on innovative solutions within their own firm.
Work in progress
Despite these numerous benefits, however, gender inequality still very much exists within the corporate world. According to the Rockefeller Foundation’s research into women’s leadership in business, one quarter of those studied reported no women holding leadership positions at all within their companies.
One third reported a more progressive working environment however, saying their workplace puts high priority in having women in leadership positions.
This is something that IQ-EQ has directly addressed through support for flexible working and more. IQ-EQ’s hybrid working policy nurtures people’s ability to juggle their home and work lives, while our ‘Elevate’ women-in-leadership programme gives our female employees a female-led network to lean into as well as tailored learning and development opportunities for every career stage.
Elevate was designed with a confidence-building objective at its heart. It’s well known that when it comes to career progression and promotion, women might only put themselves forward if they feel they have the skillset to do 80% of the job already, while male counterparts will more readily chase roles that would require them to attain the skills for 70% of what they see in the job description.
IQ-EQ is cognisant, too, that some sectors are more challenging for women to assert their presence in, with fund management being a prime example. Which is why in 2021 the firm introduced IQ-EQ Launchpad for clients – a unique service initiative that aims to help female first-time fund managers achieve success. To the earlier point about female focus on CSR and ESG, it’s worth noting here that the majority of IQ-EQ’s Launchpad clients are impact investors.
While the industry IQ-EQ operates in (not to mention society at large) still has more work to do to level the playing field, I’m proud to say that I am a product of this evolving environment: a strong leader treated as an equal, with a platform to make a valid contribution to IQ-EQ’s ongoing success.