Despite being a very successful woman entrepreneur, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, executive chairperson and founder of Biocon Limited and Biocon Biologics Limited, a biotechnology company based in Bengaluru, India, once lamented that gender bias still exists in business. When she returned to India after earning a degree in brewery, she failed to get a job, as she was told that brewing wine is not a woman’s job. This was despite the fact that women have been traditional brewers, especially in ancient Egypt.
This is not shocking, as many women have faced similar situations where they were told what women can do and what they cannot. Nevertheless, times are changing and there is a growing awareness about the intersection of gender and business. Even new ideas are coming up every day. But this is happening too slowly and something needs to be done to correct the wrong. A McKinsey & Company report in 2015 found that more gender-diverse businesses were likely to outdo about 15% above the industry average. Five years later, in 2020, another McKinsey report found that the percentage had actually gone up by 25%.
Generally speaking, there are physiological differences between men’s and women’s brains. Women do some things like multitasking, understanding situations, and empathy better than men, while men are better at focusing, analyzing, and delivering solutions. These are not simply stereotypes; they have to do with the way the human brain is built. However, when it comes to business in 2022, this inherent difference may be vital to purpose-driven innovation in established industries. Knowing how to make use of the typically male and female behaviors will be the way to contemporary leadership norms and success in a tech-driven world.
It is hoped that women will change the world in the 21st century. This is mostly because of the socioeconomic and cultural changes that have taken place over the last five decades. Women across the world have been finally being granted equal opportunities for pursuing education and career and education. However, more change is necessary in the contemporary western business landscape. Despite comprising almost 50% of the workforce, today only 5% of Fortune 1000 companies are headed by female CEOs. It is noteworthy that these women generate 7% of the total revenue of all the organizations on the Fortune 1000 list and outperform the S&P 500 index over their respective tenures. It is expected that these numbers will balance out through opportunity and equality.
With the growing pace of modern business, and the commencement of the fourth industrial revolution bringing bots, AI, and automation, more businesses are recognizing that our humanity is our killer app and modern leaders need to upgrade their management abilities. Women in executive leadership roles possess the empathy to run anything by converging humanity with digitization. Through female leadership behaviors, they bring agility, reach across functions to collapse legacy practices, and, most importantly, understand the needs of the customer to innovate and deliver new value.
Hence it is not surprising that more and more organizations are now realizing that traditionally female attributes are perfect for entrepreneurship. It has less to do with politics or gender norms; instead, it all comes down to the brain, especially three traits that are biologically more natural in the wiring of the female brain. To successfully innovate at a company, an entrepreneur must take on these female-centric traits – irrespective of one’s gender.
This is the reason why business leaders and entrepreneurs must encourage gender equality in business. Some of the things they can do are:
- Support women-owned businesses which mean investing in gender parity, innovation, overall economic growth, and female economic empowerment. This is not only an economically sound choice but also a socially responsible one.
- Support legislature that supports families with flexible workdays and helps women re-enter the workforce if they have taken time off to raise children.
- Support women-led angel investment and venture capital groups that fund women-owned businesses.
- Support organizations that support women in business. For instance, The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and WEConnect International have joined forces to start The Women-Owned initiative. This initiative is dedicated to supporting and advancing women-owned businesses in the US and across the globe.
- Champion the cause of empowerment wherever one can. For instance, in 2011, Walmart launched its Women’s Economic Empowerment program. This program aimed to leverage Walmart’s influence to help increase women’s economic mobility. Similar actions have been taken by other retailers, including Whole Foods Market, Target, Wegmans, and Ahold Delhaize.
- Re-evaluate their infrastructure and rebuild to allow for more diverse teams that accurately represent society. It’s equally important that companies expand their understanding of diversity beyond race, religion, and gender by including home life. Companies can start by viewing and supporting societies as family units rather than as individual contributors.