Why Women Should Lead Like Women, Not Men

women at work

In 2002, Fortune Magazine called Sallie Krawcheck one of “the last honest analysts”. She rose to Wall Street fame for her tough calls on stocks amid an era of conflicts of interest. She also somehow found the time to raise a family. In 2016, she launched Ellevest Financial, a digital investing startup aimed at professional women. Now, she has written a book called “Own It: The Power of Women at Work“. Built around many of her own experiences, the book offers career and financial advice for women – and advice about “leading like a woman”. 

“The future is ours to seize,” she writes, “but we aren’t going to seize it by contorting ourselves into the male version of what power and success look like or continuing to do exactly what we’ve done to date.” The attributes women tend to bring to the job – relationship skills, an awareness of risk, a more collaborative, deliberative approach to decision-making – are increasingly valued, and Krawcheck says women should showcase them, not try to be more like men.

On the process of writing “Own It”

When asked whether it was difficult for her to write her book, Krawcheck responded with her trademark honesty: “It was like giving birth out of my eyeballs. I hated every minute of it.”

The challenge, she said, was compiling many personal anecdotes into meaningful lessons around a central theme: that women need to harness their power in the workplace. Krawcheck wants women to start taking steps to bring about change not only for themselves, but for society as a whole.

Her reasons for writing the book? “Number one is women make businesses better. Not better by a little bit, better by a lot. Number two, the characteristics women bring to work, and we’ve done a lot of research on them – be they risk awareness, be they long-term orientation, be they a focus on meaning and purpose, be they a holistic way of approaching problems, be they lifelong learning… are becoming increasingly important because of changes in business and changes in technology.”

Why “empowerment” isn’t the right word

Everyone talks about empowerment. But empowerment means “to be given power”. Krawcheck flatly states “Women don’t need to be empowered – women have lots of power”. In her book she explains that women direct 80 percent of consumer spending, that they control $5 trillion in investable assets, and that women comprise more than half the workforce. “But we weren’t able to use that power historically because we didn’t have this information. We didn’t have enough options. But that’s changing.

“In terms of options, if businesses don’t treat us well, today we can start our own businesses or put together nontraditional, part-time, freelancing career paths. We can take our consumer spending and spend it with companies whose values align with ours and keep the money from companies who don’t. There are many resources to help us with that today. We can invest in companies whose value aligns with ours. We help businesses get better. If that isn’t enough, it’s becoming more important. We have lots of resources and now we have the ability to really have an impact.”

What others say about how women should lead

Roxane Gay, writer, speaker, professor, and commentator, agrees with Krawcheck’s views: “When we discuss women in the workplace, we’re all too often talking about a style that embraces noticeable zeal and force. We’re asking women to conform to a workplace environment without considering that it is the workplace environment itself that could stand to conform to a broader range of personality types and leadership styles.

“Instead of telling women to lean in, or quiet people to speak up, we need to suggest that managers wake up and open their eyes and minds. These same managers need to pay attention to those not leaning in, those hovering on the periphery of the boardroom, and find ways for them to feel included and valued for what they contribute. Making that kind of effort will not only help those employees perform more effectively, it will introduce managers to a deep well of genuine, untapped talent.”

And according to John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio’s 2013 book “The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future”, business is quickly becoming a woman’s world. In fact, of the 64,000 people surveyed across 13 different nations, two-thirds told the authors that they believed the world would be a better place if men thought more like women.

What do you think?

About the author

Sophie Huss is the Global Director of Talent Acquisition & Training at Arkadin HQ in Paris where she heads up the digital recruitment strategy, deploying the new Talent Acquisition organization which is specialized in sourcing candidates and nurturing talent pipelines via a proactive multi-sourcing approach (social media platforms, job boards, referrals, internal mobility). In large part, Sophie’s responsibilities are also to define the company’s Employer Brand that is communicated through a new careers site and supported by strong social media editorial planning & content management. She also coordinates the deployment of new learning & development programs to increase employees’ soft & hard skills. Previously Arkadin’s Global Director of Marketing & Communications, Sophie has more than 25 years of strategic and operational marketing experience across multiple industries in a variety of geographic markets. In her prior role, Sophie was instrumental in the launch of new products & services, notably Arkadin’s suite of Unified Communications & Collaboration offers.

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