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Calling out women’s achievements has an interesting outcome
Women have made notable strides in business over the past year alone.
H&M named Helena Helmersson as its first female CEO. Greta Thunberg was named TIME’s Person of the Year. Stacey Cunningham became the 67th president of the New York Stock Exchange, and Iceland passed a law prohibiting organisations from paying women less than men. There’s plenty to celebrate.
But while much has been accomplished, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to workplace gender equality. Women are still overlooked for leadership positions and many don’t feel supported at work.
It may seem small but celebrating women's achievements in the workplace can have a huge positive impact on workplace diversity and women in leadership. This year for International Women’s Day – acknowledged and celebrated on 8 March – we look at the surprising outcome of calling out women’s wins publicly at work. Plus, we share some advice from the world’s best female leaders on how to succeed.
How highlighting women’s achievements encourages growth
According to research by Dr Jingnan Chen from the University of Exeter Business School, women working in male-stereotyped industries are twice as likely to shy away from leadership roles. In addition, it found increasing the number of men in mixed-gender teams can negatively impact a woman’s desire to lead.
There are a couple of key reasons behind this.
On top of being less likely to self-promote themselves, women often feel less encouraged in their existing workplace — which leaves them feeling like they shouldn’t aim to climb the corporate ladder.
However, when providing public feedback about a woman’s capabilities and achievements in the workplace, it helps to counteract this effect.
Chen’s research found that when a woman’s efforts are celebrated openly, it significantly increases their desire to want to become the boss. Women who receive positive feedback on quantitative achievements are more likely to step up to the table and use their leadership skills.
In addition, this encouragement inspires the high performers to aspire for senior roles. In other words, when women are supported, they feel empowered to aim higher and dream bigger in their careers.
Successful women share their advice
So how can women ensure they thrive in the workplace, even when the chips are often stacked against them? Below, we share career and recruitment advice from the world’s top female executives.
- “Be prepared to spot growth opportunities when they present themselves — because they are the key learning opportunities. You’ll know because they make you uncomfortable, and your initial impulse may be that you’re not ready. But remember: Growth and comfort never co-exist.” — Ginni Rometty, former CEO of IBM
- “The easiest way to get something to grow and flourish and thrive is to create the ideal environment for it. But right now women are not thriving in a workplace built by men, for men. And so the Third Women’s Revolution will be about not just getting women into leadership positions, but about what they’ll do once they get there: leading the way in redesigning the way we work and the way we live... When we prioritize our wellbeing, reject our always-on culture and take the time to unplug and recharge, our performance actually goes up across the board – in creativity, decision-making, problem-solving, focus, attention, and productivity.” — Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global
- “My advice for women who want to rise up into leadership is to stop asking yourself if you can. Doubt is a killer for action and promotion. If it is in your mind, it will enter others’ minds. Don’t question yourself. Start walking and the path will create itself under your feet.” — Catherine Perez, VP of Corporate Planning & Program Management Office of Nissan Motor Co, Ltd
- “[It’s] the ultimate chicken-and-egg situation. The chicken: Women will tear down the external barriers once we achieve leadership roles. We will march into our bosses’ offices and demand what we need, including pregnancy parking. Or better yet, we’ll become bosses and make sure all women have what they need. The egg: We need to eliminate the external barriers to get women into those roles in the first place. Both sides are right. So rather than engage in philosophical arguments over which comes first, let’s agree to wage battles on both fronts. They are equally important. I am encouraging women to address the chicken, but I fully support those who are focusing on the egg.” — Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Embracing workplace diversity benefits everyone in an organisation, not just women. By celebrating female achievements and encouraging them to lead, businesses can further bridge the gender gap at work and build a diverse team that thrives.