The 21st century is a great time to be a woman. Women are taking on more leadership positions, starting more businesses, and earning more college and advanced degrees than ever before.
More than 200 female leaders interviewed shared a wealth of advice for navigating the workplace of the future. A few overarching themes came up time and time again. These themes represent six vital skills and attributes to cultivate when forging your career path and will be listed below.
But first we must answer the question, "Does Gender Still Matter?"
About 20% of the women interviewed said they saw no difference in the way men and women lead; good leadership, they implied, knows no gender. This leadership survey results, however, suggest that people do see distinct differences between the ways men and women lead, and view members of each gender as stronger in certain aspects of leadership than the other.
Is gender really an issue that we should be discussing in the 21st century? Are men and women really that different? Didn’t the feminist movement that began in the 70’s answer that question?
The modern reader will agree that men and women are different anatomically, but we still stumble around when asked if men and women are different in other ways as well.
Professor Steven Goldberg in his book with the provocative title, Why Men Rule – A Theory of Male Dominance, maintains that men and women are different in their genetic and hormonally driven behavior.
We would stress that this does not mean that one sex is superior or inferior to another but rather that each has different strengths and at the same time different weaknesses. He believes that the high level of testosterone in males drives them toward dominant behaviors, while high estrogen levels in women creates a natural, biological push in the direction of less dominance and more nurturing roles.
To say that men and women are the same is to deny the physical reality. Science makes it plain that males and females are different from the moment of conception. These differences are evident in the chromosomes that carry inherited traits from both the father and the mother.
Not only are men and women fundamentally different in the way their brains are wired, they are also vastly different in their physical strength and endurance. Women, on average, will only have 55 to 58 percent of the upper body strength of men and are only 80 percent as strong as a man of identical weight.
When we add to this our unique personalities, our cultural upbringing, and the environment in which we live and work, we come to appreciate why the sexes view the world differently.
It is these differences that create interpersonal problems when we have the irrational belief all men, or all women, respond in a similar manner. The truth is that both men and women routinely approach a broad range of personal and business issues quite differently.
In general, in this survey, women were rated higher than men on transformational and interpersonal skills and attributes, such as communication and empathy, whereas men were rated higher than women on strategic leadership skills and attributes, such as confidence and being strategic or visionary.
Men were rated markedly higher than women on certain attributes and skills. 72% of respondents rated men more comfortable with taking calculated risk, 77% on confidence/assertiveness, 71% on being strategic/visionary and 73% on ability to make decisions quickly. Women respondents ranked women leaders higher than male respondents did on all 10 attributes and all 10 skills.
Six Vital Skills and Attributes Women Leaders Need to Cultivate.
Education and Lifelong Learning: Most employees will have multiple careers over the course of their working lives: Baby Boomers averaged 11 jobs between the ages of 18 and 44. Who knows where the averages will end up for generation X, generation Y, and beyond. To sustain a career that may last 50 or more years, workers will need to periodically reassess and update their skill sets.
Tech Savvy: Mere technology literacy is a baseline requirement for many jobs today. Technology can change entire industries in an eyeblink. Leaders must continuously keep pace with evolving technology.
People and Project Management Skills: Today, more work is being performed in teams, and technology makes it possible to collaborate with broad networks of geographically distant people. This increased emphasis on connectivity means employees will need excellent interpersonal skills.
Connectivity and Networking: In person networking remains a vital skill and a key way women learn, share information and find jobs. Workers who are able to interact well both face-to-face and virtually with others will increase their value and employability.
Business Knowledge and Experience: Business and technical operations are becoming intertwined in many fields today. Business knowledge is especially important for those who want to move into leadership positions.
Confidence, Assertiveness and Risk Taking: To maximize your value, ensure that you communicate vital pieces of information and your ideas are heard and you receive credit for them. Assertiveness is also vital for those who want to be tapped for leadership positions. To be seen as a potential leader, make yourself visible for assignments that will give you a wider reach in your organization.