April 30, 2015 — According to recent Catalyst data, women hold only 23 (4.6%) of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies and 19.2% of board seats at US stock index companies. In 2013 and 2012, one-tenth of Fortune 500 companies had zero women on their boards.
Meanwhile, the gender wage gap has barely budged in a decade.
Juxtapose women’s stalled progress in the corporate world with the plethora of research suggesting that gender-balanced leadership has a positive impact on companies’ bottom line. A McKinsey report found that companies with a top quartile representation of women executives had an average 47 percent higher return on equity.
Organizations can only reach their full potential when their leadership teams reflect the diversity of their customers, more than half of whom are women.
Succeeding in our new global economy requires a new kind of leader: a global enterprise leader who is innovative, self-aware, and culturally competent. In addition to knowledge (IQ) and the ability to manage emotions in a positive way (EQ), it’s essential for global leaders to cultivate a broader set of qualities known as global intelligence, or GQ.
According to Harvard Business School professors Bill George and Krishna Palepu, global leaders need seven characteristics of GQ in order to operate successfully in the new economy:
Worldview—understanding the world as it is and ability to adapt to changes quickly.
Self-awareness—knowing one’s strengths, vulnerabilities, and biases.
Cultural curiosity—having a deep curiosity about other cultures and how they operate.
Empathy—appreciating cultural differences and having the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes.
Alignment —aligning all employees around a common vision, mission, and values.
Collaboration—creating networks that cut across geographic lines.
Integration—incorporating global and local issues into overall corporate strategy.
A recent study of leadership skills rated women strongly in nearly all of these traits, suggesting that women are well-positioned to take on complex global leadership roles. Organizations need to be strategic about placing women in such roles at appropriate times in their careers in order to attract the best talent and achieve global success.
Society has advanced in the last decade, but progress is slow and more change is necessary to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men.
By cultivating the skills described above, recognizing the benefits of gender-balanced leadership, challenging the status quo, and aligning women’s skills with the new opportunities of a global economy, women and companies can become more successful than ever before.