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.

Anne Perschel
Anne’s favorite sound is ocean waves receding over stones. Her favorite scenes include beaches and the spontaneous expressions of young children who haven’t yet learned to hide their emotions. She loves the smells of freesias, lilacs and salt water, and in warmer weather enjoys being active in all variations of nature’s gifts.

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