Women in Leadership: The Impact of Diversity

There is an abundance of resources that support the notion that female leaders are anticipated to have certain stereotypical traits which detract from their competency, compared to traditionally masculine leadership. Women in leadership are commonly associated with warmth, kindness and agreeability. This is not the same narrative for men in leadership positions, and these emotional attributes are often overlooked, or can be seen as a deterrent when striving for leadership excellence. 

It is these stereotypes of effective leadership which hurt the success of organisations, and consequently hold them back, because the true potential of leaders of any gender identity is not encouraged to come through. This is because there is a preconceived bias that exists alongside these notoriously feminine attributes. An example of this can be seen in a recent investigation on social sensing, where male and female leaders were observed using sociometric badges that tracked their activities and conversations over a period of weeks. Despite there being no discernible differences in their behaviour or performance, men were given leadership positions far more frequently than women. [1]

Today is International Women’s Day, and on this day, we are not just celebrating women – but the feminine attributes and diversity of leadership that they bring to organisations. Feminine leadership brings its own unique perspective, skills and experiences to the table which have been proven to drive organisational success. So, what role do women play in the leadership of our organisations? How could this contribute to the success of your organisation? 

Diversity of Thought 

Diversity in the workplace is about much more than the ‘diversity hire’ and the common connotations of racial or gender diversity. Intellectual diversity includes all aspects of a person or group, encompassing different experiences, opinions and perspectives. This creates dissimilarities between the team, allowing innovative and creative problem solving, compared to a team where people think alike or who have similar experiences.   

A study by the Harvard Business Review found that diverse teams with a variety of perspectives outperformed homogeneous teams on problem-solving tasks. Specifically, diverse teams performed 58% better than non-diverse teams on complex problem-solving tasks. 

Similarities breed the same results, the same opinions, the same experiences. Having a diverse leadership team fosters new and exciting methods of problem solving, ways of working, processes and systems. It is a team’s differences that greatly increase the range of possible ideas and solutions.  

Emotional Intelligence  

It’s a fact – we need to possess both intellectual and emotional qualities to be an effective leader in today’s world. A successful leader should have the ability to think creatively, analytically, and strategically, as well as demonstrate qualities like self-awareness, empathy, and humility. In essence, being a great leader starts with bring our whole selves to work. 

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the cornerstone of effective leadership. As an inherently feminine trait, EI is the ability to recognise and manage one’s emotions while understanding and influencing the emotions of others. Leaders who possess high levels of EI are better equipped to handle conflicts, build strong relationships, and foster collaboration among team members. Women tend to score higher than men on several key emotional intelligence competencies, including emotional self-awareness, empathy, and social competence. In fact, the study found that women outperformed men in 11 of the 12 emotional intelligence competencies measured.

Robust and Diverse Leadership Skills 

Leaders that embrace feminine leadership attributes provide a necessary shift from traditionally ‘masculine’ traits which are commonly considered to be desirable, such as cold, unapproachable, and ‘strong’. However, there is an intense need in today’s world to lead with care, empathy, and vulnerability. There is an underling skill which needs to be perfected for this to occur – communication. 

Heightened communication skills allow leaders to connect with their teams on an emotional level which can foster trust and loyalty. This skill also proves to support adept navigation of complex interpersonal relationships and allows leaders to effectively mediate conflicts and seek out suitable solutions. In a survey of more than 1,000 employees, the consulting firm Accenture found that workers were more likely to say that their leaders were effective if they exhibited traits like empathy, inclusivity, and approachability. These traits are often associated with more “feminine” leadership styles. 

Diversity, equality, and inclusion are non-negotiables for any type of business today. In this new age of business success, diversity is a core component for an innovating and successful team or organisation. But this diversity does not stop with hiring more women, it is about marginalised groups, the LGBTQIA+ community and so much more. Organisations that are whole prioritise inclusivity as a primary leadership skill in order to bring out the great potential in your team. 

Creating platforms for women to step into leadership roles has a multitude of benefits for organisations. Not only does it lead to better financial performance, improved innovation, and enhanced decision-making, but it also results in higher employee satisfaction and better corporate social responsibility and environmental performance. Companies that invest in gender diversity and prioritise women’s leadership will reap the rewards of a more successful and sustainable business. 



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