Global Leadership Consultants


Women in Business, with Danuta Gray pt 2/2

Aug 27, 2016 | Leadership Talks (Videos)

Show Transcript

Women are more than capable of holding their own in the business world. This has been proven time and again by female professionals in various disciplines.

It has also been proven by the positive way in which female business women can affect business relationships and organisational conversations. The problem is that women are not always afforded access to the necessary resources to stand out and make themselves heard. They need to be empowered to harness the tools at their disposal and learn how to stand out from the predominantly male crowd. This all starts with personal development.

There are three things that affect individual development for women in business:

A constellation of developmental relationships
Kathy Kram, a scholar in the field of business mentoring, first coined the term “a constellation of developmental relationships”. It refers to three important business guides: a mentor(s), a sponsor and a coach. A mentor gives practical advice throughout someone’s business journey, while a sponsor is someone in a position of power who wants to see you progress in your career and will open doors for you to new and bigger opportunities. A coach is someone with whom you have the freedom to express self-doubt and insecurities.

Unfortunately, women find it much more difficult to find sponsors than to find mentors or coaches. They also tend to doubt themselves to the extent that they become self-deprecating, which is not a characteristic of a successful business woman. Since sponsors and organisations are found through informal networks and maintaining visibility in the industry, it is important that women start to believe in themselves enough to get out there and get noticed by potential sponsors. If women start building these relationships, they will start seeing progress in their careers.

Doing a job well will not get you noticed, unless you make sure that the right people know who you are. Women have to network and set up natural, informal networks so that they can build relationships and support structures. This will help to develop the relationships they need to progress in their careers. Coaches and mentors are essential in helping women maintain and nurture such relationships. As a woman, you have to realise that such relationships can mean the difference between a promotion and professional obscurity. 

This has nothing to do with dress sense or appearance, but with getting yourself heard in your field and making a noticeable and positive impact. Women have to enable themselves to be competent, professional, ambitious and considered an asset to a senior team.

Unfortunately, women face some obstacles in this regard, one of which is establishing a balance between exhibiting leadership characteristics commonly associated with females and those commonly associated with males. This is called the Double Bind. Women who overly express characteristics commonly associated with women, such as empathy, good communication, including people and collaboration are often labelled incompetent, ineffective, indecisive, hesitant and apologetic. If a woman leans more towards decisiveness, affirmative behaviour, action and making tough choices, she is often labelled aggressive and pushy.

The second obstacle is communication style. This involves both body language and how women make themselves heard in a male-dominated environment. It is easy for women to be overlooked or ignored, even if they do make valuable contributions if they don’t do it in a decisive, confident and clear manner. 

The role of the organisation
Organisations can ensure sustainable change by putting proactive plans in place to allow women to network and build relationships. This can, for example be done by making all senior executives formal sponsors for one or more women who shows potential. It can be measured and, perhaps, event incentivised. Leadership also has to buy into such plans, by committing to helping women succeed and supporting them in their developmental programmes. They can also help by putting flexible programmes in place, logistics for childcare, flexible working and brining people back from maternity leave. 

The most important thing in this whole process is to recognise our unconscious biases that are based on our ideas of strong leadership. Unless we make an effort to address our biases, we will simply carry on as we always have. If we truly are committed to helping women in business succeed, we have to change our approach and start helping them to overcome hurdles, instead of putting more in their way.

More Leadership Talks


What is your Story? -A “happily ever after” starts with analysing your “once upon a time”

An organisation’s story can be so deeply rooted within its culture that it can determine its future, whether good or bad, and project ultimate success or failure. The old paradigm of command and control is a story crafted long ago, when authorities felt the need to control the masses. Unfortunately, this perception often still prevails in corporate cultures to this day. In organisational terms, command and control became the managerial template for leaders who believed that workers had to be controlled because they could not be trusted.

How Purpose Drives Performance in Organisations

The trend is undeniable - purpose drives performance. The idea of big businesses driven by a purpose beyond their products, profits, and ego is no longer a utopian vision - it’s becoming a reality.

7 Characteristics of Leadership 4.0 – What successful leaders do differently

Digital technologies have disrupted everything, not only within IT, but also leadership styles and how we manage our organisations. Leaders at every tech company are not digital leaders, but it is undisputed that Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are two of the best examples today. What do they have that the majority of German managers do not?

3 principles for embracing the weQ trend: Leadership 4.0

With the agreement that change is necessary, the question is how? The straightforward answer is that good leadership can endure open-ended co-creative processes. As experts in management development,Oxford Leadership see three guiding principles for future learning in a management context that should be based on all the methods and tools of choice: mindfulness before abilities, focus on what works, and changing priorities.

Leadership 4.0 in the “Digital Age”

Today “Digital Leadership” is one of the latest buzzword within organisation boardrooms. But what does it mean? Essentially, it is a type of leadership that is fast-paced, cross-hierarchical, responsive, cooperative, and team-oriented.

Leadership challenges in the V.U.C.A world

One of the key failures is to lead us to find what is probable rather than what is possible. The VUCA environment means that we must focus on what is possible, rather than on what is likely to occur.

Leadership 4.0: Agile Leadership in a Rapidly Evolving World

The next generation of leaders will be those who can develop a common purpose, trusting people and empowering teams to act on their own initiative. Shifting the structure and mind-set of an...

4 Rules of Leading High-Performance Teams

At Oxford Leadership, we consider teams (and organisations) to be living, complex adaptive systems, and apply the knowledge we derive from the theories of complexity and chaos to our approach.

Purpose Driven Leadership for turbulent times

For approximately 20 years now,I have been involved in developing leaders, teams and even whole organisations to become more purpose-driven. What I have learnt during this time is no matter what challenges lie ahead, whether large changes, complexity or execution of strategy, the best way to start is to “humanise” organisations and not focus solely on the mechanics. The conversation has now shifted towards, “How can I contribute to the big picture?”

Leadership Lessons from Nelson Mandela’s Life

Nearly 20 years after the end of the brutal and racist apartheid regime, South Africa’s citizens are still searching for a new leadership model to carry forward Nelson Mandela’s ideals amid a host of mounting problems.
"For many organisations, this is becoming a burning issue. They understand the need to transform, but their...