Today’s work force is more diverse, and women are no exception to this trend. In fact, women are filling more senior leadership roles than they were just 10 years ago, which can be attributed to a shift in attitude in the workplace, says Eileen Habelow, senior vice president of organizational development of Randstad, a provider of human resources services.
In the past, there was a stigma attached to women in senior leadership roles, but this is no longer the case, Habelow says. Companies are even finding that organizations with women in senior leadership roles tend to have a competitive advantage. With women taking on those roles, there is greater diversity at the top, leading to better management among a varied work force.
“With a diverse pool of leaders, an employer can be more effective at leading a diverse pool of workers,” Habelow says. “The more you diversify at the leadership level, the more effective you’ll be at leading a diverse work force pool.”
As more women are acquiring senior leadership positions, it also improves engagement, Habelow says. When employees see only a certain demographic in senior leadership positions, it gives them the impression that they can’t rise above the glass ceiling, which damages morale among those employees.
“When I look up and I see only seeing people in senior leadership positions who are totally different from me, and career development trajectory is important to me, I’m not seeing a lot of opportunities for me at my company,” Habelow says. “A big part of engagement is seeing opportunities for yourself.”
While more women are attaining senior leadership positions, they are not without their challenges. Women in senior leadership roles are still in the minority among other executives at many companies, Habelow says, and this makes it difficult to share partnerships with other female associates.
“When you’re the first one in a role or you’re the only one of the group, no matter what, it makes you different,” Habelow says. “It’s tougher to find allies and mentors who are like you to partner with, collaborate with and look up to.”
Still, the most successful women in senior leadership roles take this chance to prove they belong, Habelow says. When these women are in the same room as their male counterparts, they operate like they are an integral part of the team by showing their competencies with poise rather than acting intimidated.
“You’re showing a level of confidence, and it’s breaking down barriers,” Habelow says. “Just because you’re the first woman doesn’t mean you’re the lowest player in the field.”