The business case for more diversity in our Boardrooms, more Women on Boards and a more gender-balanced workplace with women at all levels is compelling. The recent research from McKinsey shows the proven financial benefits and the underlying factors of the dividends of diversity are clear. But many women, especially mothers, can be daunted by the perceived stresses and burden of managing a family and the increased workload a senior position may produce so Parental Choice asked Lisa Barnwell, founder of www.lisabarnwell.co.uk and Bumps and Boardroom (http://www.lisabarnwell.co.uk/bumps-and-the-boardroom-with-lisa-barnwell/) why mothers make great leaders and should be using their talents in the boardroom:“We are moving from why we should have more women in senior decision making positions to why don’t more women want this?
As individuals, regardless of our gender, we can embrace both masculine and feminine values and traits. Yet in business, especially at the most senior levels, the current norm is to operate from a more masculine driven perspective. For many women the corporate environment loses it appeal and this is compounded when women become mothers.
Citymothers and Cityfathers provide networking events for parents to boost talent retention and to help members of both sexes maintain career trajectory. They conducted a recent survey where members were asked to describe “one thing” they would like to change. Answers included more open attitudes towards flexible working, less focus on presenteeism and a more accepting and less macho culture.
When a pregnant woman is working in a male dominated environment that thrives on operating in a linear and rigid structure it can be difficult – unless the culture actively supports it – to embrace her feminine pregnant energy and “softer” flowing values which are conducive to her transition to becoming a mother.
However by subtly shifting away from her masculine energy and traits that are more focused on performance and competition she can experience a smoother journey to motherhood that can translate to a quicker return to the workplace. With planning and good policies, management can welcome these changes and also benefit from them.
The challenge can be after a baby arrives to choose one path or another feeling that the “softer” side of you can no longer “fit in” or connect with business environment you once thrived in.
So how can you embrace your feminine values and recognize the skills that you naturally hone as a parent to change the shape of future boards and create more diverse leadership?
Bridget McIntyre, founder of Dream On and the former UK chief executive of the multinational RSA Insurance Group, believes it is about overcoming the belief that women “must behave in a certain way.” As one of only sixteen women to be a FTSE 100 executive director she has a point.
We now have the evidence that female leaders often create happier teams that lead to better results. They nurture rather than push. Inspire rather than dictate. And companies that incorporate “softer” leadership values of collaboration, building team spirit rather than fostering in-house competition and support to allow their employees to be more openly vulnerable can be successful.
Arianna Huffington, creator of the Huffington Post and 12 steps to Thrive advocates opening up to more feminine-led values including:-
- listening to your inner wisdom,
- helping someone else with your talents,
- making personal connections,
- offering small acts of kindness,
- starting a gratitude list and
- forgiving yourself and others.
These are not frilly and fluffy recommendations but sound business and life principles, made by a woman who 3 years ago sold her business for $315 million and in 2014, was listed as the 52nd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.
Many women, especially mothers may perceive the boardroom as intimidating or inaccessible or see the road to the top as a path filled with compromise. Women can see success differently, especially once they become a parent and are looking after their family’s needs as well as their own. The additional levels of responsibility can seem overwhelming when your focus is on first hand development of your children.
But women who step up, recognize and respect their professional and personal skills and choose to bring all of these qualities to senior level decision-making are benefiting many generations of children to come.
When we embrace our authentic whole self and see all skills we possess as of value we can start to really thrive as nature intended and change the feel of our Boardrooms forever.”
Lisa Barnwell is a maternity consultant and therapist working with individuals and corporations. She is the Founder of Bumps and the Boardroom – an online platform to highlight the impact negative views around pregnancy and new motherhood are having on the pipeline of female talent and rise of women to board level. (http://www.lisabarnwell.co.uk/bumps-and-the-boardroom-with-lisa-barnwell/)