The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders

The Influence Effect

Women represent half of all professional jobs today, but only 4% of CEOs in the S&P 500 are held by women.

Surprisingly, that percentage hasn’t really changed much in the last ten years.

The authors of a new book, The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders, argue that what works for men on the job doesn’t work for women. I recently caught up with the authors (Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, Mary Davis Holt, Diana Faison) to share more about their extensive research and experience in the area of women in leadership.

 

Only 4% of CEO’s in the S&P 500 are women.

 

Women Lack Access to Sponsors

Give us an update about your research and work since writing the last book, Break Your Own Rules.  What have you been up to and learning?

We conducted original research to help us understand why women were so turned off by office politics and how we could help. We surveyed 134 senior executives in leading organizations, and the results revealed that women and men fundamentally disagree on the overall objective of politics.  Women said they use the tools of politics to “manage relationships,” whereas men use them to “win.” Women were far more likely to mention “creating impact and ideas,” while men were more than twice as likely to describe “carving a one-time advantage.”

Women are judged more harshly than men when engaging in office politics, and our lack of access to sponsors puts us at a disadvantage.

Also, women and men have differing approaches to power and influence. It’s collaboration vs. competition.

 

Study: Women are judged more harshly than men when engaging in office politics.

 

You start with a premise that what works for men on the job won’t work for women. Would you share an example?

How to Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership

The Power of Diversity

It’s not just the right thing to do.

Diversity is organizational rocket fuel. It’s better decision-making. It’s better results.

I’m always studying what works, what doesn’t, and the latest thinking in this area.

That’s why Melissa Greenwell’s new book, Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership, got my attention. Melissa is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of national retailer The Finish Line, Inc. Her new book utilizes current research and demonstrates that more women in management equals better financial performance.

I reached out to her to talk about her research and her perspective. Her views are intriguing and offer a view worthy of discussion and consideration.

 

Study: more women in a group increases problem-solving and decision-making.

 

The Case for Gender Diversity 

For those who aren’t up to date on the latest research, tell us why gender balance is good for organizations. What’s the case for gender diversity?

Hardwiring in the brain is different for men and women. The physical differences are associated with natural tendencies in thinking, communicating, and problem solving that are all needed in business. Men and women demonstrate these traits in varying degrees. Organizations that have traits from both genders will get the best questioning, debate, and idea generation resulting in healthier strategies and increased performance over those who don’t. Those are the organizations that will create the best products and services for their customers.

 

Fact: Public companies with more than 1 woman on the Board have higher returns.

 

Why do some resist it?

I don’t believe people resist it. I believe leaders don’t know what to do to change it. That’s the biggest reason I wrote the book – to provide some actionable advice as to what leaders can do to effect change.  Others have brought awareness and that’s a good first step. Now we need to start doing the things that will lead to more gender diversity in leadership positions.

 

Study: Companies with no gender balance on the board have lower market capitalization.

 

You say that you wrote the book mainly for men in power because they can change the ratio. And then you say some “get it” and some “think about it.” What’s the difference?

I wrote the book mainly for people in positions of power – anyone who is in a senior leadership role can effect change faster. At this time, the vast majority of those people are men.  Of the male leaders I interviewed, I found that there are two main groups: those who “get it” and have been taking steps for several years to have more women in leadership, and those who are “thinking about it” – that is, they acknowledge that women are important to their business but are struggling to find ways to have more of them in senior leadership.  The biggest difference between these two groups of leaders is that those who have greater gender balance in their organizations have taken some very deliberate steps to get them there. They take more time to seek candidates and they reach outside their known network to find female candidates. They tend to take more risks on up-and-coming talent within their organizations as well.

 

Reasons Companies Fail to Keep Women

It’s not only recruiting but also retention that is important to changing the ratio. What are some of the reasons organizations fail to keep women?

Some organizations still refuse to implement the flexibility it takes to keep female talent. They still view creating flexibility as making exceptions rather than viewing it as a competitive advantage. They are busy counting hours instead of measuring results. Those that continue to think that way will fall behind in the war for the best talent.

 

What’s unconscious gender bias and how do you recognize and deal with it?

Unconscious gender bias is continuing to hire people who are just like us (male or female) and not even thinking about the ramifications of doing so. Little to no thought is being given to examining the gender balance of the team or organization when this continues to happen. The only way for it to change is for the top leader to set the tone and lead by example. Everyone follows the lead of the CEO or President, which in itself is far more important than implementing awareness initiatives.

 

Steps for Building Gender-Based Leadership