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Be the Change:  Why women in leadership roles must drive transformation

From sexual harassment in the workplace to integrated social purpose (and everything in between) women are ready to take this on “What is the point” or “So what” are sentiments I ask myself when grappling with a business issue or even finding the time to get to a yoga class.  The filters I use are […]

From sexual harassment in the workplace to integrated social purpose (and everything in between) women are ready to take this on

“What is the point” or “So what” are sentiments I ask myself when grappling with a business issue or even finding the time to get to a yoga class.  The filters I use are specific; how will this add value to the women I serve in business and the community or improve the health and wellbeing of my family.  I have passed this along, albeit served up in a softer way to the women entrepreneurs I work with. 

Recently I connected with a bright young woman who has built an on-line luxury resale brand.  I was moved by her passion and enthusiasm to layer emotion into her brand purpose.  “We are not a consignment store, we are a platform that fuels female empowerment.  With women working harder than ever it is not only their right but symbolic of a commitment to their worth and deservedness to treat themselves to a little piece of luxury.”  Women no longer have to “justify” an indulgence made for themselves and this is a form of empowerment.  Fueling her company with a social purpose has not only made business sense, but has catapulted it to a multi-million-dollar company inside of 3 short years.  Finding a way to resonate emotionally with social purpose has become essential to businesses success.

Women CEO's driving economic growth is not new news, but women leaders being more capable to drive transformation is.  From a fiscal standpoint, women-owned businesses in the US have an economic impact of $3 trillion and are credited with creating or maintaining 23 million jobs.  In addition, women-led companies perform twice as well as those led by men.  An underreported and underappreciated statistic worth shouting from the rooftops.

Female leaders of business and government will create social impact relevant to female issues.  Female leaders in business can use their platform to initiate transformation on one of the most critical corporate social issues: sexual harassment in the workplace.  The calling out phase is over.  The protests have happened.  Some bad men have gone to jail and lost their jobs.  When news broke that Under Armour had been allowing executives to expense their strip club visits, there was a collective WTF.  Transformation post #MeToo is not far enough along, but as one of my former and favourite male colleagues once said to me “If you really want something done give it to a busy woman”.

Are women better Leaders? 

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania mapped the neural circuitry of 1000 brains and learned that on average, women's brains were highly connected across the left and right hemispheres, in contrast to men's brains, where the connections were typically stronger between the front and back regions.  Ragini Verma, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said the greatest surprise was how much the findings supported old stereotypes, with men's brains apparently wired more for perception and coordinated actions, and women's for social skills and memory, making them better equipped for multitasking.

"If you look at functional studies, the left of the brain is more for logical thinking, the right of the brain is for more intuitive thinking. So if there's a task that involves doing both of those things, it would seem that women are hardwired to do those better," Verma said. "Women are better at intuitive thinking.  Women are better at remembering things.  When you talk, women are more emotionally involved – they will listen more.”

One of the top scholars on gender and leadership Dr. Alice Eagly, says “women are more likely than men to possess the leadership qualities that are associated with success.  That is, women are more transformational than men - they care more about developing their followers, they listen to them and stimulate them to think "outside the box," they are more inspirational, AND they are more ethical.”  Dr. Bernard Bass, who developed the current theory of transformational leadership, predicts that in the future, women leaders will dominate simply because they are better suited to 21st-century leadership/management style.

The feminine values of equality, compassion, and instilling a more flexible organizational structure have infiltrated business.  Over time as women started getting the top jobs we have seen shifted company culture; a change that can help drive compassion and purpose into a company.   Women leaders can bring companies and businesses into greater balance, incorporating action-oriented approaches with qualities related to Emotional Intelligence, such as empathy, collaboration, communication, and teamwork.  The results are work environments that are healthier, higher achieving, and cooperative in achieving corporate fiscal and social strategic plans.

Creating a Purpose Driven Brand

I get asked all the time about my “Why”.  When I founded Lusomé 6 years ago my “why” was personal around creating a solution to help my sister get some sleep as she was battling breast cancer with the hope that many women could be helped.  I also am a mom to 2 young men, and I wanted them to have a front row seat in witnessing women in action and the commitment required to build something very purposeful.  Over time my “why” has evolved to be in service of women.  This takes shape in many ways; through the products we create, the women we partner with, the women we hire and mentor and our philanthropic work in the community.  Seeking out a higher-level purpose for my business and my own personal “why” has fueled me in new ways emotionally that I could never have envisioned when I started the company.  I only wish I had integrated rich social purpose in my original business plan which guided the first few years of operations.

Integrating social values as a strategic pillar is critical.  One of the most glowing examples of a business that oozes social purpose through every cell of the company’s being is Ø (zero waste) founded by Karen Glass out of Atlanta, Georgia.  I first met Karen 20 years ago when she was creative consulting for one of most successful retail brands in the US, of which she had been VP of design and development.  Karen had and still has a glow of purpose and serenity which is impossible to explain until you meet her and then go, “oh I get it.”  Part of the Ø model creates exquisite fashion in an upcycle process and hires and trains victimized women who are transitioning out of a life of addiction, trafficking and sexual exploitation. Under Armour, please take note.

Consumers are naturally driven to brands and companies that support a meaningful cause.  There is an unspoken message that is delivered about the brand/company and the people behind it when the business stands for something very meaningful.  Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey is not new, but it helped launch a shift in corporate culture around the environment, the community and tying social responsibility milestones to overall company value.  Women take note:  by utilizing our strengths and infusing our brands with social purpose and our leadership styles with empathy and a phenomenal ability to multi-task, we are steadily, quietly reshaping the corporate landscape.  Hold on for the ride as our culture transforms and embrace your exquisite capabilities.

“Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals. ”

― Margaret Mead

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