Women are typically under-represented in positions of power.
This year women only make up 5% of Fortune 500 CEOS and according to the Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency nearly three quarters of organisations have a male only management team. The number of women in senior roles is actually declining globally.
There is an unconscious bias towards women in leadership, which intimidates women and leaves them in an environment that doesn’t nurture their strengths and cuts them down. When a person feels intimidated, their brain’s threat response activates and consequently they are less likely to be able to express their true potential.
Social scientist, leadership expert and award-winning filmmaker, Silvia Damiano, believes that society has specific expectations of female leaders. Men and women think differently, which means they also lead differently.
Understanding how the brain works will strengthen and shape the leaders of the future. Embracing the differences between male and female leaders will positively impact organisations and the future landscape of business and leadership.
Over the past 20 years, Silvia has developed a career, revolutionising the way organisations and individuals think about leadership. She developed the About My Brain Institute in 2009, an organisation using neuroscience to develop leaders, teams and cultures.
Over the two decades of working in this space Silvia has noticed a number of patterns.
“Women tend to apologise quite a lot, but it isn’t necessarily due to a lack of confidence. It’s because women are generally trying to harmonise the environment and that’s a biological thing women have in comparison to men,” says Silvia.
“Women’s brains are wired so they prioritise emotions, empathy and nurturing. Men, on the other hand, prioritise respect. Understanding these differences will create more diverse leadership. Women and men have something to contribute, and by breaking free of societal norms we can give everyone an equal say about the world around us.”
Silvia’s top tips for breaking through the glass ceiling
1. Stop saying sorry
In order to be an effective leader women need to be confident and stop apologising. Women tend to use the words ‘I’m sorry’ far too often and usually when it isn’t required. In a male dominated business landscape females need to stand up, get noticed, push their way forward and not apologise for their right to speak or their right to an opinion.
2. Take care of yourself
In order to be the most effective and productive you, it is important to prioritise health and wellbeing. Do something for yourself, get a massage, play your favourite sport, spend time with family, whatever it is that you want to do, do it! This is essential to manage your level of energy and stress and find that sense of balance in your life.
3. Connect with others
Connecting with people at work and getting to know colleagues on your team can lead to increased office communication. Knowing colleagues’ values, and their likes and dislikes is extremely valuable. Knowing what they are motivated towards can also help with distribution of work and who will excel at certain tasks.
4. Develop a supportive network and sounding board
It is very important to have a supportive network. This includes a sounding board – people you can bounce ideas off and who will be honest and supportive with you. Friends, mentors or coaches are great to gain a different perspective on problems at work.
Being able to articulate thoughts with confidence, understand your intuitive insights and influence others while remaining calm are essential to success. In order to become a female leader in today’s society, it is vital that you harness your communication skills and learn how to effectively regulate your emotions and utilise them in a work setting.