More Women in Senior Leadership: New Research Report Details What Women and Corporate Leaders Must Do



Researchers Also Detail What Corporations Must Do

To Be Part of The Solution

A new report, WOMEN AND THE PARADOX OF POWER, based on research by Dr. Anne Perschel of Germane Consulting and Jane Perdue of Braithwaite Innovation Group finds that corporations are leaving money on the table and forgoing future success by failing to place more women in senior leadership roles. Perschel and Perdue also claim that businesswomen must prepare themselves to take on these executive roles by understanding and using power more effectively.

In their study, which involved hundreds of senior level businesswomen, Perdue and Perschel find that many women relate to power in ways that prevent them from attaining senior level positions, be it lack of confidence; cultural conditioning; or simply not understanding what power is. In comparison, interviews with women in senor leadership roles at the highest levels of corporations, reveal that they have a different understanding of power and use different approaches to gain more of it. They then use their power and influence to make important changes to the culture and to leadership practices.

Reshaping a male-dominated business culture, changing the ratio of women to men, and thereby improving bottom line results, requires a very specific set of actions by those currently in leadership positions as well as by women themselves. Perschel and Perdue identify the key issues and solutions:

5 Actions for Women

  • Know power and be powerful: Perschel and Perdue define power as the capacity to get things done and bring about change. Not so for many of the research participants who think of power as “being in control at all times,” or “deciding and announcing,” among other misconceptions. Sixty-one percent of survey participants hold mistaken views about how to advance their power (and themselves). The authors emphasize that women must study power, understand power, and use their power to change the culture of business.
  • Ditch Cinderella: Over sixty percent of the participants preferred passive approaches to gaining power, opting to be granted access, rather than actively taking it. Unlike Cinderella, women cannot passively wait on the business sidelines, hoping business culture will change and hand them the most powerful decision making positions. Instead, they must seek power, advancing both the change agenda and their careers. As one executive vice-president who heads a $300 million dollar business advised, “The success police will not come and find you.”
  • Show up. Stand Up. Voice Up: Fifty-two percent of the barriers to power that participants identified are personal and internal, e.g., “what I need is a constant drip-feed of confidence.” With women comprising nearly forty-seven percent of the entire workforce, holding forty percent of all management jobs, and earning sixty-one percent of all master’s degrees, they are uniquely positioned to work together and with interested men to dismantle legacy organizational barriers and stereotypes.
  • Forge strategic connections: Relationships are the currency of the workplace, yet sixty-seven percent of the women in Braithwaite & Germane’s study are not taking charge of building their networks. To fill more than the three percent of the Fortune 500 CEO positions they currently hold, women must become masters of strategic networking as well as building alliances and coalitions.
  • Unstick their thinking: Thirty-eight percent of participants opted for being well-liked rather than powerful. Perschel and Perdue contend this is an area where some women need to re-order their preferences and adopt both/and thinking. Based on research conducted at Stanford University, women are uniquely capable of moving beyond an either/or mindset, about power and other issues. Leaders, both male and female, too often limit solutions by framing problems as a choice between two mutually exclusive options. More women in senior leadership roles with a both/and approach will help all leaders think about decisions differently and more effectively.

 3 Actions for Corporate Leaders

  • Make gender balance real: Having more women in senior leadership roles is correlated with a substantial increase in total return to shareholders, a performance metric for most CEOs. Why, then, do so many company executives fail to hire, develop, and promote women for clout positions on senior leadership teams? Leaders at the highest levels must move beyond positioning gender balance as politically correct and giving it perfunctory lip service on the corporate agenda. If they are serious about gender balance, they must position it alongside the top business imperatives.
  • Re-make Leadership: Despite decades of efforts to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles, the needle on this corporate metric has barely moved. Gender bias is prevalent in the very way leadership is defined – a take charge, have all the answers, aggressive style. Corporate leaders must change both the definitions and practices of leadership. Women will help them do so.
  • Walk the talk. Develop women leaders: Seventy-one percent of firms responding to a survey conducted by Mercer, the world’s largest human resource consultancy, do not have a clearly defined strategy or philosophy to develop women for leadership roles. As some of the approaches that work for men do not work as well for women, corporate leaders must invest in modifying these programs to develop women and then follow up with promotional opportunities.

Utilizing this research and her related corporate experience, Dr. Anne Perschel leads and advances aspiring professional women through coaching, development programs, mentoring and sponsorships. By identifying key obstacles such as those uncovered in WOMEN AND THE PARADOX OF POWER, she helps women and organization leaders identify and address issues that help ensure women reach the highest pinnacles of success.

To receive your copy of the full report click the download report button at the top of this page, right hand column.

Other items of interest:

, , ,

12 Responses to More Women in Senior Leadership: New Research Report Details What Women and Corporate Leaders Must Do

  1. NjugunaN January 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    An excellent expose on women corporate leadership! However, I have misgivings about #3(“gender balancing…”). There’s nothing that weakens women position like affirmative action. Whether she’s qualified for the position will be immaterial; once she gets a position to fulfill a particular gender quota, she will always have issues with her subordinates!
    I’m proposing that this is a social issue of perception that might be solved politically, see “ladies- change- the- world movement”

    • Anne January 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

      Thank you for your comment Njuguna and for pointing out that is sounds as if we are advocating for affirmative action. We are not, and agree that making it about “numbers” provides fodder for the argument that she got the job for reasons other than her competence. At the same time, in the U.S. we measure. Dilemma. The numbers need to change as a result of other changes as you suggest.

  2. NjugunaN January 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    An excellent expose on women corporate leadership! However, I have misgivings about #3(“gender balancing…”). There’s nothing that weakens women position like affirmative action. Whether she’s qualified for the position will be immaterial; once she gets a position to fulfill a particular gender quota, she will always have issues with her subordinates!

    I’m proposing that this is a social issue of perception of women vs leadership. This might be solved politically, see “ladies- change- the- world movement”

    follow on Twitter @NjugunaN

  3. Carmen Iglesias January 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Excellent insight! I have read many articles on women leadership and this one seems to nail down the core issues many women face in attaining senior levels of leadership.

    I especially appreciated the section on Power. Many women seem not understand what power they do have and how to gain power. It is my belief that power comes from a variety of different sources like knowledge, expertise, confidence, experience, charisma, etc. And a truly powerful woman is one that can master the many power sources while not forgetting what makes her a unique leader, as a woman.

    My only difference of opinion is that I don’t necessarily believe women need specialized leadership programs which may cause different standards in the organization. I believe if a corporation is serious about developing leaders, then a good leadership program/leadership culture is the key, not a specialized program based on gender.

    As an Army officer, I trained right alongside the men in a number of mandatory leadership courses created with one goal: developing exceptional leaders. The leadership programs were never tailored for gender but instead were always focused on developing leaders that could lead in any situation and with any group.

    I believe an organization’s main focus should be developing exceptional leaders not exceptional male leaders and exceptional female leaders. But I do agree, that if an organization is truly serious about developing it’s leaders, then they should promote its programs to all employees, starting from the beginning of their careers, with a special emphasis on ensuring female employees take advantage of such programs as historically, they may have not been afforded the same opportunities as easily as their male counterparts.

    Excellent points and I’m sure great discussion now and in the future as we develop our female leaders of tomorrow and women leaders begin owning their own success in leadership and in life in the 21st century.

    Carmen J. Iglesias, Major, US Army
    Carmen Iglesias recently posted…Five Tips to Inspire LoyaltyMy Profile

    • Anne January 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

      Thank you Carmen for sharing your valued thoughts. I am honored that you commented. I agree that in most cases leadership development programs need not be tailored to men or women. The reference in the report, which does not show up in the press release, is specific to mentoring. Surveys by Germane Consulting’s clients indicate that women perceive their male colleagues gain more benefits from a male mentor. Some of this is due to potential awkwardness or concern about perception if “he” were to invite “her” to an informal social networking event – a drink after work hours, a sporting event, etc. Just the other day, a colleague European colleague reported that informal networking between men and women is well accepted and very comfortable in Europe.

      Does informal networking hold as much valence in the military as in corporate life? Is it easier, more comfortable for both genders? With little experience working in military, I’m curious about these and related questions.

      Warm Regards and delighted you have joined this conversation.

  4. Neil January 20, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    This is a great article! The thoughts are well explained.

    In my case, I experience the pros and cons of having women as leaders in the corporate ladder. I guess the sad thing about women who ditched the Cinderella approached turned out to be Queen Bees. The result, we have a abnormally high rate of resignations from female colleagues.
    Neil recently posted…best ballroom dance videosMy Profile

    • Anne Perschel January 20, 2012 at 7:29 am #

      Sadly, there are queen bees. I hope that as more women move into senior roles, we will experience less stinging.
      There’s an interesting post on a related topic – how women compete – at

      The senior women I interviewed for this research report, were anything but Queen Bees. They were open, generous, aware that it was not about them, and more. So, we have reason to believe things will get better.

  5. Helen France February 25, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Excellent article.

    As a women I am both fascinated by how typical ‘female’ traits can undermine our place/promotion at work (like the cinderella effect) but then we need to ensure that we don’t make the solution solely about ‘being more like men’.

    We need to ensure there is level of openness at the top to accept the strength of some of these different approaches to ensure that we get diversity rather than women behaving like men.

    • Anne Perschel February 25, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      Exactly Helen and thank you for commenting. As to valuing what women bring to the table:
      I completed a different research study a number of years ago to ascertain how men do (or don’t) value the way women think and practice of leadership. Men in the study value and learn from women how to better collaborate, read the emotional landscape, support others, and think intuitively. Women named these attributes as well and both groups see them as more stereotypical feminine than masculine. The Cinderella effect is more cultural than innate, so here’s to our ruby red slippers.


  1. New Report Identifies Steps to Ensure More Women in Senior Leadership | ACA Media - March 4, 2012

    […] Read more. This entry was posted in Research, Senior Leaders/Executives by admin. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  2. 3Plus International How to Close the Confidence Gap for Women - April 28, 2014

    […] by Germane Consulting, 2011, also found a self confidence problem among professional women. Over 200 senior women, director […]

  3. How to Close the Confidence Gap for Women - May 5, 2014

    […] by Germane Consulting, 2011, also found a self confidence problem among professional women. Over 200 senior women, director […]

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge