Why Sheryl Sandberg is right to lean in
As a business with 80% of the board executives and 50% of the directors being female, there has been quite a lot of buzz on the subject of gender diversity around the Brand Learning office in the last few weeks, provoked by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Slightly late to the party, I watched her extremely engaging 2010 TED talk Why we have too few women leaders (below), and shared it with my colleagues on our social collaboration network, Yammer. 26 comments later, it was clear this topic of gender equality and leadership was on the top of many people's minds.
Since then, a group of us at Brand Learning, along with thousands of others, have explored and dissected her philosophy in greater detail. We wanted to know – why is this topic important for organisations in general and for customer-centred growth in particular?
In the TED talk and her book Lean In, Sandberg articulates the issue - "men still run the world". She provides some very compelling statistics to support this:
- Women hold just 20% of seats in parliaments globally1
- Women hold only 17% of board seats in the US2 and 14% across Europe3
- In the UK women working full time are still paid an average 15% less per hour than men4
But why does any of this matter for organisations?
There is clear evidence that companies with more women at the top have better financial returns compared to companies with no women at the top5. This difference in financial performance is attributed in the study to the diversity of leadership behaviours or values that women tend to bring to the decision-making table.
From experience and intuition, many of us are aware that women and men do tend to work differently, bringing different styles and diverse but very valuable perspectives and qualities to an organisation; now, the authors of The Athena doctrine claim to have distinguished these typically 'masculine' or 'feminine' qualities. They conducted research with 64,000 men and women across 13 countries and found that, for example, resilience, confidence and decisiveness are seen globally as typically 'masculine' traits; collaboration, flexibility and empathy are seen globally as typically 'feminine' traits.
Critically, in their research 81% of people say "you need both masculine and feminine traits to thrive in today's world". I like this definition of diversity being not only in terms of the numbers of women in leadership roles, but in terms of the influence of 'feminine' values running deeply through an organisation. Obviously women can be as assertive and decisive as men and men can be as caring and empathetic as women - these values do not 'belong' to one gender or another.
Why is this relevant for customer-centred growth?
At Brand Learning we believe that the everyone in the organisation needs to focus on creating value for customers. This can only be achieved by connecting with customers, with a spirit of collaboration across functions and geographies, and with a large measure of courage. Pioneered by the millennial generation, this is a new way of working, discarding any sense of a macho 'command and control' culture in favour of a new way bringing together the best of 'feminine' and 'masculine' qualities. We believe this approach will deliver competitive edge and tangible business results.
Ask yourself what you can do to lean in and embrace this new approach. How can you enable your team to connect and collaborate with customers as well as each other?
For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s customer-centred leadership capabilities, please get in touch or contact me directly @SarahW_BL. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Customer-Centred Leadership.