Women Leaders in the Workplace
We often ask, “What does it take to be a good leader?” Is it the most assertive and gregarious person or the reserved and thoughtful individual? In our society, conventional wisdom dictates that extroverts make the best leaders, yet a growing body of evidence suggests that introverts can make better leaders in many scenarios. Regardless of the personality traits, good leadership is not defined by gender.
For women, navigating the business world can be an especially challenging process, whether they are extroverted or introverted. By nature, women are viewed as nurturing and supportive. Conversely, men are traditionally seen as aggressive and bold. Since these more assertive traits are most often favored in leadership roles, potential leaders with a more thoughtful and reserved style are often missed.
A decade ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that women and men attained a bachelor’s degree at virtually the same rates. Today, women account for more than 56 percent of students represented on nationwide university campuses. However, just 16 percent of women are in leadership roles and are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than men. The historical imbalance and gender bias against women in the workplace are painfully clear.
There are many capable women who are often overlooked for leadership roles. While overlooking women simply because they are women is ethically and legally out of bounds and introverts of both genders face similar challenges, women who are not assertive by nature can be particularly challenged. This is especially true when working with male counterparts with traditionally favored assertive styles. But to succeed in the competitive marketplace, organizations must create an environment that values the skills and ideas of all workers and address the inherent bias towards assertive personalities that can impact women disproportionally.
Integrating Skill in the Workplace
Most industries, including equipment finance, are male dominated. With rapidly changing demographics and men now representing the minority in university attendance, businesses need to do more to support and advance this changing demographic—for their own benefit. If they don’t act now, the prospects to attract and retain highly-skilled talent will be limited. While more women should be in leadership roles across the board, diversity for the sake of diversity is unproductive. Individuals of all stripes should be promoted and placed into leadership roles for the skills and ability they bring to the table.
Our CEO is an ardent supporter of a diverse and strong workforce and has built a culture that favors talent and ability over any other perceived factors or biases. This “start at the top” culture of inclusion and advancement at Amur Equipment Finance has benefited us in many ways. Our home office in Grand Island is largely made up of talented women, and we have women in strategic leadership roles throughout the company, including our CFO, VP of Human Resources and VP of Marketing, among others.
There are three things you can easily do now to encourage a diverse workforce and improve your business’s bottom line.
- Actively recruit women and other minority groups. Based on clearly changing demographics, these individuals will be your company’s next leaders.
- Promote leadership skills building—not only for women, but for all employees and personality types.
- Set up a mentor program. This item is dear to my heart. As one of the first individuals in our company to receive the equipment finance industry’s Certified Lease & Finance Professional (CLFP) designation, I have since worked tirelessly to encourage employee participation in the program. This past year, 16 additional Amur Equipment Finance employees received their CLFP designation—the majority of them women.
By having a supportive and purposefully designed structure in place, you will be able to organically build a diverse company and attain all the benefits that come with a diverse workforce.