“The year of the woman” is again on display. More than a slogan, our evolving culture and mindset are taking center stage. In reality, women have not veered off course supporting and encouraging one another to continue blazing the trail and taking their seats at the tables of leadership. However, the slogan reminds us that while each milestone of progress is celebrated, women and men alike recognize the gap is still great.
Alice Eagly and Linda Carli, who coined the term ‘labyrinth of leadership’ in their 2007 HBR article of the same name, pointed to the notable absence of women in top leadership roles. Rather than a glass ceiling, Eagly and Carli conjured up the image of a labyrinth women must navigate and the walls they must ascent, including walls of prejudice and gender stereotypes, differences in traits and learned behaviors, and even the disproportionate investment women have historically benefitted from in areas of education, work experience and work-related opportunities.
It has only been since the 1970’s that academic research began to deeply explore gender and leadership, but the skewed representation of women to men across industries and roles makes it difficult to generalize results about what makes a successful woman leader. What we do know is that the practice of leadership has been embraced by women since the beginning of our documented history—it is only now that we are witnessing the direct impact on the health of organizations that benefit from the unwavering commitment and competence women bring to the workplace.
Successful companies realize that leadership is so much more than a static set of traits or inborn skills. The days of the great man theory of leadership are gone. Instead, companies know that leadership is a complex process, and the skills and behaviors needed to be effective can be developed by everyone through determination, self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and coaching. Women embody core capabilities that underpin the ease with which many are showcasing success at empowering others, building communities and networks that cultivate new ideas, and addressing turbulence with their keen ability for teaching and engaging others to think outside the box.
“In the past, women had to prove themselves, often trying too hard to emulate their male counterparts,” says Sharon Imperiale, President, CCI Consulting. “Today, there is more confidence in women leaders. Being authentic, open, and honest serves them well.”
As a proud women-owned business, CCI Consulting is celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day by highlighting the dynamic, courageous and successful women leaders we are fortunate to work with. We truly believe their thoughts about women leaders will inspire all of us and showcase how women are transforming the companies lucky enough to have them!
“As we continue to define and redefine what traits are core to strong leaders, I think it’s a positive trend that skills and traits mainly attributed to women such as empathy, collaboration, effective listening, and creative problem solving are now included in the mix! The marvelous strength that effective women leaders have is their ability to balance these needed skills with the more traditional ones normally attributed to effective leaders.”
Debbi Bromley, Ed.D.
SVP, Human Resources, Genex Services
“It’s difficult to become what you cannot see. Women leadership continues to be incredibly important for the little girls growing up behind us, looking up to the women of today to decide what they want to do in life. Women are shaking up all industries by leaning in, taking a seat at the table, and innovating in a way that hasn’t been done before. We’re starting companies, taking office, and climbing ladders while keeping our families at the center. Additionally, we represent the voice of half of humanity. A voice that has been missing from boardrooms and courtrooms that impact our every day.”
Jessica L. Landis, CFP®, ChFC®
Vice President, Head of Investment Solutions, Janney Montgomery Scott LLC
“Today’s workforce demands a greater life-work balance. Women better understand that and value the benefits. It is not about being soft; it is about setting priorities and goals, and creating [and] embracing the best culture to achieve high-performing results.”
President, CCI Consulting
“Women make strong leaders because, quite frankly, it is how we are made. It is in our DNA!
Whether it is a struggling mother determined to raise her family or a woman who is a CEO of a large company, both embody characteristics that keep them going, keep them striving, keep them alive. These characteristics include, but are not limited to, being forward thinkers, dreamers if you will. For how does one achieve anything without a dream? Being emotionally intelligent as well as self-aware is as key as being tenacious, a collaborator, and a person who takes responsibility. These strong women embody a sense of balance, audaciousness, resiliency and, most of all, a sense of humor about self.”
VP of Human Resources, Philadelphia Gas Works
We at CCI Consulting work with dynamic, courageous and successful women like these every day. Some are our clients, some are our coaches and consultants, and all celebrate the intentional and purposeful way women leaders are hoisting themselves and others to see more clearly over the labyrinth walls. The more women take on leadership roles and serve as breadwinners in the family, the more society will increasingly accept women as both nurturer and leader.
Adena Johnston, D.Mgt. MCEC
Vice President and Practice Leader, Talent Development