African companies with boards that are at least one-quarter female, experience on average 20% higher earnings than the industry average. However, with only 5% of CEOs and 29% of senior managers being women – as well as only 36% of all promotions going to women – there is still huge room for improvement.
Some of the reasons why companies with a greater number of women in leadership positions perform better include: enhanced risk management; openness to new ideas and ways of doing things; improved collaboration and cooperation between stakeholders; and stronger ethics and consistency in making fair decisions.
Companies with greater gender diversity are also better equipped to understand the needs of female customers – who directly influence 70-80% of global spending.
This is according to the findings of McKinsey & Company’s recently released Women Matter Africa report. The research draws on surveys conducted with 55 leading companies across the continent; interviews with 35 African women leaders; and analysis of the financial performance of 210 publicly-traded African businesses.
What companies can do to improve gender diversification
So what should South African companies do to improve their gender balance?
What aspiring women leaders can do
Little has been done within the structural levels of the organisation, particularly in the private sector. So it really comes down to the drive of the women themselves.
Some of the strategies that helped existing women leaders get to where they are today include going above and beyond what was expected of them, and building resilience in the face of adversity. Many said they developed this work ethic in response to gender bias, noticing that they had to work twice as hard as male peers to earn the same recognition. They also had to cultivate a veneer of toughness, refuse to take setbacks personally, and have the courage to dissent.
Other common characteristics of women leaders include persistence in achieving goals, a willingness to take risks and a commitment to professional leadership skills development, where they actively looked for career opportunities and ways to improve their professional skills.
They also found mentors (both male and female) to provide advice, feedback and self-reflection, as well as becoming mentors themselves. They encouraged other senior women to do the same.
First published on www.howwemadeitinafrica.com
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