There’s a huge gender gap when it comes to leadership within the United States. According to research from Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR), as of 2015, only 19 percent of U.S. Congress members and less than five percent of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women. As for the highest office in the land, women have come closer and closer to hitting that mark ever since Geraldine Ferraro broke the glass ceiling as the United States’ first vice presidential candidate in 1984. 2016 marked the first year a woman ran for the highest office itself. Hillary Clinton came close, achingly close.
Bridging the Gap with Action and Information, Not Only Words
Yet until women fill more seats in Congress, until they fill more top spots in Fortune 500 and high-tech companies, until a woman occupies the White House as more than a First Lady, there’s much work to do. To that end, women need to expand their capacity for leadership by learning information and techniques that will equip them to develop the very leadership skills, strategies, and practices that can launch them into action.
Bridging the Gap with Upgraded Skills
Specifically, women must learn to create the conditions to close the gap. With tutelage from proven female leaders in a diverse range of fields, women can leverage their unique power to practice the foundational tenets of successful leadership: to clarify what work needs to be accomplished and to create the conditions that allow others under their leadership to succeed in each of their roles.
Bridging the Gap by Changing Perceptions
Finally, women must address the largest barrier to their equality in leadership—gender stereotypes. Women in leadership, unfortunately, must navigate a “labyrinth” of sorts—balancing the perception that they’re in charge with the “shrill” moniker that follows many women in high positions to their graves.
Now is the time for women to take the reins of leadership, not by becoming Xeroxed copies of male leaders, but rather by learning how to channel their own gifts–as women–to walk through that labyrinth, heads held high, leaving gender stereotypes strewn by the wayside.
Leaders who see it as their job to help others succeed will build loyalty in those who report to them. Leaders who spell out their goals in clear, achievable steps will help those underneath them to succeed. Leaders who forgo the brash, know-it-all attitude to become lifelong learners themselves will create the conditions for success. That’s the power of women’s leadership.