The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Susi Astengo

ASTANFORD School of Busi­ness study on power and in­flu­ence found that women who are per­ceived as com­pe­tent are also of­ten per­ceived as un­like­able, while men do not face this like­abil­ity/com­pe­tency is­sue. In fact, as a re­sult of this, women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions get very lit­tle sup­port from other women.

The re­cent elec­tions in the US demon­strated a prime ex­am­ple of the above syn­drome as one of the rea­sons Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign failed was that her crit­ics ac­cused her of be­ing cold or aloof dur­ing her cam­paign. The elec­tion shows that sex­ism re­tains a deeper hold than most imag­ined. But what was high­lighted in all of this is that women do not stand to­gether. Women voted for Trump over Clin­ton by a whop­ping 28 point mar­gin –62 per­cent to 34 per­cent. If they had split 50-50, Clin­ton would have won.

More ef­fec­tive

There is a grow­ing body of ev­i­dence show­ing that women are equally and, in some in­stances, more ef­fec­tive lead­ers than men. Re­search by the In­sti­tute for In­clu­sive Se­cu­rity (IIS), a think-tank fo­cused on women’s con­tri­bu­tions to peace build­ing, has shown that women are more open to “col­lab­o­ra­tion across ide­o­log­i­cal lines and so­cial sec­tors”. Ac­cord­ing to the IIS, when women are in­volved in ne­go­ti­at­ing peace deals, these are 35 per­cent more likely to re­main in ef­fect for at least 15 years.

So where do women find them­selves at this junc­ture in the cor­po­rate world? Women have sim­ply stopped mak­ing progress at the top in any in­dus­try any­where in the world. For the last 10 years, in the US, women have oc­cu­pied 14 per­cent of the top cor­po­rate jobs and 17 per­cent of the seats on the board. How­ever, de­spite the fact that women are ob­tain­ing more and more of the grad­u­ate de­grees – and more and more of the un­der­grad­u­ate de­grees – there has been no more progress as this has trans­lated to more and more women oc­cu­py­ing en­try-level and lower-level man­age­ment jobs. So, no real progress… One of the big­gest con­tribut­ing fac­tors is that women do not sup­port other women.

The ben­e­fits brought by women to lead­er­ship po­si­tions far out­weigh the changes busi­ness needs to make to ac­com­mo­date them. More star­tling per­haps – in view of pre­vail­ing at­ti­tudes – are the re­sults from new data from the Peter­son In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Eco­nom­ics and Ernst & Young (EY), which shows that hav­ing more fe­male lead­ers in busi­ness can sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease prof­itabil­ity.


While it is crit­i­cal for or­gan­i­sa­tions to in­crease ac­cess to lead­er­ship roles for women it is equally im­por­tant to de­velop eq­ui­table strate­gies and pro­grammes to en­sure both men and women rise to the top.

Women lead­ers need to be coached to de­velop the lead­er­ship and com­mu­ni­ca­tions strate­gies they need in the work­place such as strate­gic and com­plex de­ci­sion-mak­ing util­is­ing the fe­male whole-brained an­a­lyt­i­cal/in­tu­itive style. They need to de­velop their strength and re­silience by learn­ing how to han­dle the volatil­ity, un­cer­tainty, com­plex­ity and am­bi­gu­ity of an in­creas­ingly un­sta­ble and rapidly chang­ing busi­ness world.

South Africa ranks among coun­tries with the high­est fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in gov­ern­ment. Laud­able as this statis­tic may be, in cor­po­rate South Africa only 7 of the 293 com­pa­nies listed on the JSE have women at the helm (2015 Women in Lead­er­ship Cen­sus). Susi Astengo is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of CoachMatch­ing and has worked in se­nior man­age­ment, lead­er­ship coach­ing and as an HR con­sul­tant for more than 20 years. She re­cently won en­tre­pre­neur of the year in the pres­ti­gious 2016 Busi­ness­women’s As­so­ci­a­tion Re­gional Busi­ness Achiever Awards, spon­sored by San­lam and Glacier by San­lam.

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