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Time for more women in leadership

Cegos Team

Companies have made great strides on equality issues over recent years. Initiatives from DEIB to HR policies that encourage gender parity have produced mixed results, some with great success. And yet, when it comes to female representation in leadership, there is still much work to do.

In the fith episode of our Leadership Adventure podcast series, host Olga Dudko talks to Laurence Ballereaud, International Project Director at Cegos Group about the role of women in modern leadership.

“I never called myself a feminist,” says Laurence. “I became aware of the issue when I had a daughter, and I wanted her to have lots of possibilities in life. Today, she has female role models all around her. But I want her and her girlfriends to have choice, and tomorrow’s world to be girl-friendly.”

Society has come a long way and there are more women in leadership roles today than there were, say, 30 years ago. But the fact that women still occupy only a minority of leadership positions is not just down to lack of opportunity.

“Feminism has never been about making women stronger,” says Laurence. “It’s more about changing the way the world perceives the strength of women.

Role models

Woman leaders throughout the ages have inspired others to take on the male-centric establishment and make a change. Laurence cites many prominent women leaders she admires, including Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, and Angela Merkel, former Chancellor of Germany.

She also refers to lesser-known role models who nonetheless made a significant impact. You can learn more about those in the podcast.

The biggest obstacle to women progressing up the corporate ladder lies in the way society perceives leadership.

“In many cultures, masculinity and leadership are so closely linked,” says Laurence. “The ideal leader is decisive, assertive, and independent. In contrast, women are expected to be nice, caretaking and unselfish. When women are assertive, they are called aggressive.”

Leadership qualities that matter

The qualities that women bring to the table – emotional intelligence and preparedness – are often overlooked. It seems that, even in more progressive societies, women are constantly fighting to prove their legitimacy, which can have a negative impact on self-confidence.

“Well-meaning companies are trying, but there remains a feeling of disconnection with male colleagues and exclusion from key positions,” she says. “There are still too few female leaders, few role models.

“Women are still underrepresented. I don’t think the concept of the ‘glass ceiling’ reflects the variety and complexity of challenges that women face. Women often just disappear on the way up.”

The way ahead

So, what can we do to further change the environment and extend true equality for women?

“First, we need to educate men and women on the unconscious biases that exist,” she says. “Give women demanding development experiences – train them for leadership early, not wait for later in their career. Introduce family-friendly HR policies, such as flexitime. Rethink leadership models that embrace complexity – allow everyone to be themselves with their own values.”

And a final piece of advice: “Believe in yourself, your dreams, detach yourself from other people’s opinions. Refuse to believe you can’t be compassionate and strong.”

There remain unseen layers of prejudice that prevent women from reaching the top. But with a more sustained effort, the outlook for women in the boardroom should be brighter, and Laurence’s daughter can grow up in a world that is more accepting of individual strengths, regardless of gender.

In the immortal words of acting icon Judy Garland – “Always be a first-rate version of yourself. Not a second-rate version of someone else.”

Episode 5 of The Leadership Adventure: Women in Leadership – is available wherever you get your podcasts Or click below to listen to it.

Discover or rediscover the other episodes of the Leadership Adventure podcasts

Written by

Cegos Team

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