Why women should stop trying to be like men
WOMEN with their sights set on leadership should embrace the qualities that come naturally to most of their gender, rather than trying to be more like men.
These characteristics, such as emotional intelligence, are often highly sought by employers looking for effective leaders.
Research from global training provider TalentSmart finds 90 per cent of top performers have high emotional intelligence.
Although women are under-represented in leadership positions, the rates are improving.
New data from the Australian Government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency reveals women have increased their presence in management in the past five years, now comprising almost 40 per cent of managers and almost a third of key management personnel, which is the level just below chief executive.
Refresh Dental Spa owner Dr Kristina Cain says some people think women must toughen up to be a boss, but nothing could be further from the truth as "women are natural leaders".
"A lot of the characteristics that make women good mothers translate to business and help them support and motivate their team," she says. "We are nurturing, great at multi-tasking, empathetic and more inclined to think outside the box to find a solution to a problem.
"We also have an uncanny ability to build personal relationships and friendships which helps to open up many more doors and opportunities."
Carsales general counsel and company secretary Nicole Birman says women often have higher emotional intelligence, which is vital for good leadership.
"I try to focus on EQ (emotional quotient) and empathy and awareness of my impact on others," she says. "I think it's really important to understand the impact your actions have on those around you and ensure others feel valued and empowered to give their best.
"There are definitely men who are great at that as well, but it has potentially been traditionally a female quality to focus on EQ."
Birman says women who want to pursue leadership opportunities must take control of their future.
"Women (must) not be passengers in their own careers," she says. "You don't have to map everything out but you need to be proactive and seek out the opportunities presented to you.
"It's important not to wait for all the world to align for the perfect time for something.
"You have to take the opportunities when and how they present."
Her other advice for aspiring leaders is to never complain without having a solution and to find good mentors.
"If you identify (an issue), always have a constructive suggestion for addressing it," she says.
"Seek out those people you admire and spend as much time with them as possible.
"Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can and you will be surprised how generous people are with their time."
Sarah Jane Peterschlingmann, managing director of ATech, says more females are "absolutely" needed in leadership positions.
"Most companies are marketing products to both genders so if there is a lack of representation in leadership by women you are missing out on the opportunity to understand and connect with, typically, 50 per cent of your customers," the 2018 Women in Digital Leader of the Year finalist says.
"It seems like a no-brainer."
She says it is the job of the existing male leaders to mentor the women working with them.
"A lot of programs focus on helping women be more confident at work but when it comes to more technical skills, such as financial training or marketing strategies, leadership executives might be tempted to mentor their male subordinates," she says.
"Technical skills help to drive a career forward in executive leadership."