The Face of Leadership is Ready For a Change

For far too long our base perceptions of what a “leader” should look like have held us back from enfranchising populations of people who can excel in these vital roles. Women are incredible leaders, and despite an inherent bias that makes the path for them harder, they have risen to executive positions in every industry. They are managers and supervisors, founders and CEO’s, and when given the responsibilities of leadership, companies see greater returns. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review the Overall Leadership Effectiveness of women in positions of authority was rated higher by their peers, colleagues, and managers, at 54.5% compared to men at 51.8%. Specifically women were scored highest in positive efficiencies, taking initiative, and displaying integrity. Contrary to popular belief they did not show any particular proclivity towards nurturing competencies. These scores were consistent across all industries, and extended even into professions traditionally considered “male” including sales, legal, engineering, IT and R&D. Women also seem to get better at leadership over time, with their ratings peaking between the ages of 40 and 60.

Despite this women are still underrepresented in leadership positions, with their numbers declining at every ascending level, and women only making up 3% - 4% of CEO’s worldwide. Considering the capacity that they show for excelling in those roles, the waste of talent, wisdom, and judgement that is occurring is staggering. There are many reasons why this disconnect exists, but one of the most pervasive is the perception that people have of leadership. A survey published in Forbes had 80% of respondents reporting that men and women were equally good leaders. However a significant portion of those questioned also felt that males would be better leaders in specific industries including Energy, Finance, and Technology. This is to some extent a self fulfilling prophecy. In industries such as technology, where women are underrepresented at every level, the stereotypical image prevails that talented engineers are male. That leads people to form unconscious biases about who a software engineer is, who is talented on their team, and who gets promoted to technical leadership and technical executive roles. With Women Who Code we’ve taken a distinct approach to improving the industry. Our focus is on supporting career aged engineers in their professional pursuits. By shining a spotlight on their achievements, we are working to shift the conversation in the industry and expand it to include a more diverse population. We also work to help women gain the skills and experiences they need to level up to leadership positions, so that they can become role models for the next generation. Our work to usher talented technical women into technical leadership and executive roles will change the face of tech forever.

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