Women in business

2014-04-15 00:00

THE Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill was passed in the National Assembly recently. It calls for the progressive realisation of at least 50% representation of women in decision-making structures.

I am not going to talk about the pitfalls or merits of the legislation itself, but I thought that it might be a good idea to talk about women in the business environment.

The last thing that I, and I suspect most other women, want, is to be employed to meet some designated quota. I believe that more women should be included, because it is a wise business decision to do so, because women are capable of bringing unique perspectives and skills to the work environment.

In an article in Forbes.com, an Institute for Leading Diversity and Inclusion faculty member, Glenn Llopis, talks about four skills that give women an advantage over men. He talks about innate abilities that women possess, which are redefining today’s business landscape.

According to Llopis, women are “opportunity experts”. He says that, much like immigrants, we are naturally wired to think, act and innovate. “Women,” he says, “more than men, have the ability to see what others don’t, do what others won’t and keep pushing their ideas and ideals when prudence says quit.”

We have the ability to see opportunity and give our ideas life, and we are able to inspire others to do the same. He goes on to say that when we are given the opportunity to be ourselves, we are natural leaders.

He then makes the point that we are “networking professionals”, skilled at navigating the business landscape and putting our ideas to the test. We tend to follow up and make sure that we talk to people who can take our ideas forward, and our inherent ability to be creative allows us to see opportunities that others often miss.

Thirdly, he says, we are “relationship specialists”, skilled at cultivating relationships that are “purposeful, genuine, and meaningful”. We also spend time sustaining these relationships once we have established them.

In the fourth instance, he says, we are “natural givers”, who seek to give to our communities. Women are often driven by causes that serve societal needs. We are great at inspiring and lifting those around us, which is why most women leaders are such good long-term strategic thinkers. Women are less likely to rally behind a short-term strategy if a more sustainable approach can be adopted. In addition, research shows that women in general, including in business, tend to organise in a different way from men, because we frequently multitask. We are also naturally perceptive, better at delegation and more likely to dish out praise.

In 2004, a non-profit research organisation based in the United States, Catalyst, established a link between female board directors and corporate performance. The report found higher financial performance for companies with higher numbers of women board directors in three important areas. On average, companies with the highest percentages of women outperformed those with the least, by 42% in total, by 53% on return on equity and by 66% on return on invested capital. This is simply one example. There have been a number of significant studies successfully promoting “the business case” for recruiting women into senior leadership roles and onto boards. The global consultancy firm McKinsey and Co made a strong case for diversity in its Women Matter series. After establishing a link between a company’s performance and the proportion of women leaders in its employ in 2007, the 2008 report showed that these results were achieved predominantly because of the leadership styles that women leaders typically adopt. In 2009, a survey of 800 business leaders worldwide confirmed that certain leadership behaviours, typically adopted by women, are critical to performing well in the post-crisis world.

It goes without saying that there are many areas in which men excel, and it is not my intention to say that women are better than men, just that it makes good business sense also to appoint women leaders, because we bring a different heart to the table, which can contribute to a balanced, holistic approach to business, which, in all likelihood, will improve the bottom line.

• Melanie Veness is the CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.