Despite enormous strides in business, government and other areas, women don’t always get the respect men do for their leadership abilities, even when they can boast greater accomplishments.
But the combination of a pandemic, a recession and an election that 2020 brought could be the impetus for changing the way people view women and their leadership styles, a development that many would argue is long overdue, says Andi Simon, a corporate anthropologist, founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants, and author of the upcoming book Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business.
“It’s time we started seeing women leaders through a fresh lens,” Simon says. “When we do, we will all benefit from their styles and their successes.”
Because presidential candidate Joe Biden picked U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, the country potentially could have its first female vice president on Jan. 20, 2021.
Meanwhile, around the world, many countries led by women have fared better during the COVID-19 pandemic than those led by men, with New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen among those being hailed for their strong leadership.
Simon says anyone surprised women have what it takes to emerge as great leaders may have fallen for myths that surround both men and women when it comes to taking charge.
“Men communicate a myth about women that emphasizes their soft sides, their kindness, and their weakness, not their decisiveness, strength and ingenuity,” she says. “Women might lead differently, but they can and are achieving remarkable results through collaboration, coordination, and creative communication, as opposed to the command-and-control methods men often employ.”
Simon offers a few observations about women, leadership and where things could be headed:
- Research shows women score better on leadership qualities. Research published last year in the Harvard Business Review showed that, over several surveys that asked the same questions, women ranked higher than men on almost all key factors measuring leadership capabilities. “Managers, even male managers, saw women as more effective than men in virtually every area, including areas typically viewed as male strongholds such as IT, operations and legal,” Simon says. Women ranked high in taking initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and showing high integrity and honesty.
- More female mentors and role models will mean more female leaders. As more women gain leadership roles, the number of women in such roles will build on itself, Simon says. ““The script on women changing male-dominated workplace culture is still being written,” she says. “But one thing is for sure: The more women become leaders and assume positions of authority, the more they can help other women on their way up.”
- An anthropological approach can help. Simon is both a business consultant and an anthropologist, and she believes mixing the two is beneficial. “My career advice for women in leadership roles is to be a little anthropological when you are trying to find your own way in your job or business,” she says. “Do some observational research. Experience your product or service from your customer’s point of view, or your employees’ point of view. You’ll be amazed at what you discover, and the innovative ideas that come to you for solving unmet needs.”
“Our cultural biases lead us to believe that something created by a woman is not as good as something created by a man,” Simon says. “For us to see the work of women as at least equal to that of men, those biases must change. The question for all of us is: Can we change them?”
Andi Simon, Ph.D., author of the upcoming book Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business, is a corporate anthropologist and founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants. A trained practitioner in Blue Ocean Strategy®, Simon has conducted several hundred workshops and speeches on the topic as well as consulted with a wide range of clients across the globe. She also is the author of the award-winning book On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights. Simon has a successful podcast, On the Brink with Andi Simon, that has more than 125,000 monthly listeners, and is ranked among the top 20 Futurist podcasts and top 200 business podcasts. In addition, Global Advisory Experts named Simons’ firm the Corporate Anthropology Consultancy Firm of the Year in New York – 2020. She has been on Good Morning, America and Bloomberg, and is widely published in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Business Week, Becker’s, and American Banker, among others. She has been a guest blogger for Forbes.com, Huffington Post, and Fierce Health.