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Women & Business: 13 Eye-Opening Statistics That Prove We Need More Women in Executive Roles

Around the world, we saw powerful women shine during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Female leaders from New Zealand, Germany, Finland, South Korea, and more braved the global catastrophe better than their male counterparts, according to research. States with female governors had fewer fatalities, and companies with a strong representation of women on the board did better financially. While the pandemic led to higher rates of job loss and higher amounts of unpaid labor for women, those in the top tiers of power were excelling at weathering a catastrophe.

In response to that media coverage, the organization S&P Global began measuring and analyzing data to understand female leadership styles. They found that women in top positions tend to have a different approach to leadership than men, with a focus on empathy, cooperation, adaptability, accountability, and diversity. While we don’t want to (ironically) name these attributes as inherently gendered (which limits how we view both men and women), it’s hard to deny that traits of empathy and cooperation are exactly what’s needed in the world.

It’s about time we see more progress in gender equity. There are brilliant and talented women all around the world who could have a powerful, positive impact given the chance. The world is gravely in need of balance — more viewpoints, more approaches to solving problems — and having gender equity at work can help create that balance.

In this article, you’ll read 13 eye-opening statistics that show why women at work must be given support to achieve leadership status, what happens when women lead, and how American expectations of women are shifting. 

#1: 1 in 4 Americans say there are no women in leadership positions in their jobs.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s “Women in Leadership: Why It Matters” report details the state of women in leadership along with data around American views on the matter. Their key findings show that we still have a ways to go when it comes to gender equity in leadership. A company that’s completely devoid of female leaders will stay stagnant and contribute to the lingering gender equity gap, including the pay gap. Having female leadership inspires other women to go for those positions themselves, as Rockefeller data also points out: Two in three Americans say it’s important for early career women to have women in leadership positions as role models.

#2: 82% of Americans think that women and men should have equal opportunity for advancement in their careers.

Strangely, the gender equity gap at work contradicts what Americans report they want and value. The overwhelming majority believe it’s important for women to have equal opportunities. The question is, if this is what people want, why hasn’t it happened yet? It’s a complex question, but in any case, let’s give the people what they want — More women in top-tier leadership roles.

#3: 1 in 4 Americans believe it’s more likely we’ll colonize Mars than see half of Fortune 500 CEOs become women.

Another compelling statistic from the Rockefeller Foundation shows this very same contradiction. While most Americans want there to be more workplace equality, most people think it’s way out of reach. If a quarter of Americans believe more in the outlandish probability of colonizing Mars before achieving gender leadership equality, there’s a serious problem. Let’s make this possibility of equality seem less like a science fiction novel and more like reality.

#4: Female leaders tend to make more ethical decisions.

There are plenty of compelling reasons why female leadership would have significant and much-needed benefits. In a 2021 paper, researchers found that female leaders in Latin American corporations tended to make more ethically sound decisions than male leaders. This was based on factors like the creation of ethics codes, the presence of a corporate governance committee, conflicts of interest, transparency on ethics, and board ethical functioning. They argued that, “Female directors constitute a driver for social and ethical responsibility and pay more attention to stakeholder needs.” 

#5: 41% of female managers are engaged, compared to 35% of men.

Women lead men in engagement. According to Gallup, they’re more engaged themselves and lead teams that are more engaged. With employee engagement low already, this should be welcome news for companies puzzling over how to motivate their team.

Employees with female leaders gave higher ratings than men in nearly all aspects of Gallup’s engagement survey. They particularly shine at supporting development among their teams. Survey respondents rated female leaders as exceptional at identifying opportunities for growth, (which isn’t the same thing as being promoted). This had more to do with giving employees stimulating work and encouraging growth within their roles, along with checking on progress and providing regular feedback.

#6: Companies with 30% or more women on the board performed better financially during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Women are good for business. S&P found that companies with a strong female presence on their boards fared better financially during the pandemic. 54% of companies with at least 30% of women board members had positive year-over-year revenue growth in 2020, compared to 45% with less gender diversity. 

#7: States with female governors had lower mortality rates of Covid-19. 

A 2020 study found that female leadership at the state level improved Covid-19-related mortality outcomes. This was the result of several factors they noted, including stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and showing empathy, cooperation, and willingness to listen to others. The authors suggested this was in line with other studies demonstrating that female leaders are preferred during times of disaster and calamity. Different leadership styles are needed at different times, and for many reasons, women seem to navigate uncharted, challenging waters with more success.

#8: Countries with female leaders had lower death rates.

In a 2021 study, female leaders were found to have systematically and significantly better outcomes when it came to Covid-19. The University of Queensland found that death rates were 40% lower in countries helmed by women. This was attributed to these leaders “taking quick and decisive action [and] a broader view of the wider impact on society and being more receptive to innovative thinking.” They also found that, “Female leaders tend to act promptly and decisively and are more risk-averse toward the loss of human life, which plays an essential role in pandemic prevention and outcomes.”

#9: Only 34% of workplaces place a high value on having women in leadership positions.

According to the Rockefeller Foundation, most companies aren’t putting in the work nor showing a demonstrated interest in promoting gender equity in leadership. Yet the foundation also reports that women leaders are effective at prioritizing diversity, inclusion, and policy changes that support these initiatives. The more female leaders we have in leadership positions, the more equitable workforces can become, which will lead to even more gender equality in leadership.

#10: Women of color won’t achieve pay parity until the year 2451 if things continue at the same rate.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW)’s sobering statistic is the bucket of cold water in the face we all need. Unless we take a proactive approach to identifying, nurturing, and placing women of color in leadership positions, there will be no change in the foreseeable future. The decision-makers will remain largely a homogenous group of caucasian males, and that doesn’t do anybody any favors. 

#11: 37% of women report having a colleague take credit for their work, compared to 27% of men.

Clearly, women leaders are wanted and needed in top-tier leadership roles, but conditions don’t necessarily reflect that warm welcome. Unfortunately, women are more likely to experience less-than-hospitable conditions at work, including being talked over, invalidated, or mistaken for someone in a junior position. Plus, as McKinsey data shows, they’re more likely to be unacknowledged for their work, as shown by this statistic.

#12: 69% of women experience workplace sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is far from a thing of the past. In I-Sight’s 2021 Guide to Workplace Sexual Harassment, the majority of women reported having been harassed at work. Having more female leaders means having a higher chance of creating an office culture in which sexual harassment can’t take root or thrive. Plus, women who are harassed but who have few opportunities for advancement or who don’t feel supported at work are more likely to underreport harassment, which leads to a culture of impunity.

#13: The pay gap widens as women advance in their careers 

Unfortunately, it’s the women who are the most driven, ambitious, and who give the most of their lives to their jobs who experience the biggest injustice in terms of pay. According to the U.S. Census, the pay gap widens the more senior women get. That’s far from fair. To advance to a high level position in an environment that’s not set up for equality is no easy feat, and no woman should be punished for it.  

Let’s Create a More Equitable World

The world needs more women in power. Female leaders have been shown to be more democratic, empathetic, engaged, and even ethical in business. Female leaders weathered the Covid-19 crisis more competently than male leaders, saving lives and even helping businesses stay more financially sound. It would be a shame to let the continuing problem of gender inequity in the workplace, including a wage gap and inhospitable working conditions, go unaddressed. Let’s keep putting strong women in leadership positions and help them show talented women and girls that they too have a shot. 

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