- Sylvia Apostolidis
A Call to Action: Redefine Leadership
Updated: Mar 23, 2021
(and achieve your gender equity goals)
On International Women’s Day 2021, The Jasmar Group commemorates and celebrates the incredible achievements of women across the globe in shaping our societies. We continue to be awed by the courage, resilience and strength of women as they’ve endured and fought for their rightful place equal to men for centuries. In this past year, the movement for equity, fairness and systemic change roars forward fueled by people of all genders looking to disrupt the status quo and establish new social norms of equity, for all. This year, our Call to Action is for executive leaders to more boldly step into their influence and seek out new solutions towards gender equality in the workplace.
There’s work to do.
In Canada’s largest publicly traded corporations, the number of CEOs named Michael is larger than the number of women CEOs1. Women hold a mere ten percent of Canada’s C-suite positions and eight percent of executive positions in Canada’s 100 largest publicly traded corporations.2 They hold 31.5% of senior management positions, despite the fact that they have reached parity with men at lower levels. These representation numbers have remained unchanged for years pointing to the labyrinth of invisible barriers women continue to face and exposing the shortcomings of current solutions3.
Leaders, your beliefs don’t matter.
Your actions do. In 2021, a plethora of research exists showing that forward-thinking leaders across Canada believe in equality. However, beliefs don’t always translate to inclusive actions and leaders are often puzzled on what do to. Clearly, traditional methods of stand-alone diversity initiatives are ineffective and backfiring.
Our message goes out to any leader of an organization. If you don’t understand the risks of the status quo, then start here. Then, act boldly. Treat workplace inclusion as you would any other business challenge, because that’s what it is. Challenge your beliefs because they are full of assumptions and instead, rely on evidence and experiment with new approaches to more effectively address the conscious and unconscious, structural and psychological barriers that prevent women from reaching leadership positions.
Re-define what it takes to be a leader.
This one action might be all it takes to achieve more gender diversity in leadership. Elevate leadership standards and embed them into every part of your talent system. Start with the evidence and ask, “What skills are needed to lead high performing, innovative teams?” Over-confidence, charisma, extroversion have no correlation with leadership competency yet, we continue to value these traits in leaders.
Remarkably, research shows us that leaders who underrate their performance are more likely to be better leaders. A meta-analysis of ninety-five studies involving over a hundred thousand people, conclude that women typically underestimated their leadership skills, while men over-estimated their skills.4 These insights go against everything we expect a leader to be and make us question the advice we have been giving women as they struggle with “Imposter Syndrome”. Humility and openness to new perspectives is exactly what we need in today’s leaders, along with self-awareness, self-control and emotional intelligence – all skills women hold in abundance. Hire, promote, and reward people who display these skills, and we will not only see more women rise to the top, but we’ll better identify more men with these skills. Evidence shows that employees led by transformational leaders have a better experience, achieve higher creativity, innovation and higher performance levels.4 5
Interrupt the biases of leadership.
We call on leaders to do more than unconscious bias training that stops at awareness and often leads to backlash and more bias. Awareness won’t lead to behaviour change. Instead, recognize how bias shows up and deliberately design out of it. Design talent processes to interrupt bias at every decision point and equip your employees with the language, skills and expected behaviours that lead to high-performing, inclusive teams.
No one said this is easy. But, we can move forward with solutions that work.
Let’s Make Inclusion Stick!
The Jasmar Group is a behaviour change consultancy that helps organizations build team belonging, culture, and performance. Our solutions are evidence-based and designed to drive faster progress towards diverse and inclusive workplaces.
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Interested in a new approach to building a diverse and inclusive workplace? Contact Sylvia Apostolidis, President of The Jasmar Group at email@example.com or 416-262-2779.
Grant, T. (2021). Corporate Canada is still a boys’ club, data analysis shows – and COVID-19 could make it more so. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-power-gap-tsx/
Catalys. (2020). Women in management: Quick take. Catalyst Research. Retrieved from: Women Business Leaders: Global Statistics (catalyst.org)
Schwanke, D. A. (2013). Barriers for women to positions of power: How societal and corporate structures, perceptions of leadership and discrimination restrict women’s advancement to authority. Earth Common Journal, 3(2).
Samantha C. Paustian-Underdahl, Lisa Slattery Walker, and David J. Woe3hr, “Gender and Perceptions of Leadership Effectiveness: A Meta-analysis of Contextual Moderators, “Journal of Applied Psychology 99 (2014):1129-45
García‐Morales, V. J., Lloréns‐Montes, F. J., & Verdú‐Jover, A. J. (2008). The effects of transformational leadership on organizational performance through knowledge and innovation. British journal of management, 19(4), 299-319.
Sarros, J. C., Cooper, B. K., & Santora, J. C. (2008). Building a climate for innovation through transformational leadership and organizational culture. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 15(2), 145-158.