Women make up approximately half of the world’s population. In contrast, there are only 29 out of 120 nations ruled by women this year–the highest in history. Moreover, majority of more than a hundred nations have never appointed a woman to lead at the top. Even at present, the gap that rests between the number of men and women leaders is still immense.
For the longest time, sexist assumptions and gender stereotypes assert that men are better leaders due to their strong personalities. Until today, women are still linked to emotional weakness, such as being timid, fearful, and temperamental. Traditional beliefs are still loud and echoing, that they belong at home to take care of household and family matters. Studies estimate that it might even take 50-70 years before women can reach parity with men.
Even in the corporate landscape, there is still skepticism when it comes to hiring or promoting women to executive positions. Women account for less than a quarter of management positions worldwide, and the discrepancy is much greater for higher-level management positions. Employers continue to rely on old psychological standpoints, such as that men have ‘thicker skin’ than females, allowing them to stay focused and not get drawn away by personal attacks. However, times have changed and society has evolved and released its hold on outdated sexist views.
Alibaba Founder Jack Ma even said to Forest Interactive CEO, Johary Mustapha, during one of his talks when he visited Malaysia this year. “If you have female employees and you want your company to be successful, hire more of them!”
In support of this, a study published by the University of California, Davis in 2017 revealed that big firms with at least some women superiors performed one step ahead compared to those with predominantly male executives. Ann Huff Stevens, the dean of the university’s Graduate Management School, commented “We know that a more representative, diverse group of leaders can change decision-making and outcomes in companies.”
Female leaders have their own flair and approach when it comes to discerning and solving problems. Most people perceive empathy as a frailty at first. But the ability to empathize allows them to have a deep understanding of what impels people. In relation to this, women leaders also make great listeners. And identifying with people is a key attribute of a leader, for it builds connection and makes it easier to be in tune with co-workers and subordinates.
Women are also known to be a wearer of many hats–having several roles to play and jobs to fulfill. Even on a daily basis, they have to go from being a dependable wife and mother, to being a responsible daughter to her aging parents. Duties from the household and workplace are calling on them constantly as well. Thus, a woman can easily multitask, prioritize, adjust, and focus on solutions as well as strategies.
Furthermore, women are more impelled by a sense of purpose and a desire to impart value, shape culture, and impact society. Interviews conducted by the Harvard Business Review strongly suggest that status, power, and reward were insufficient to attract women to the leadership role, unlike their male counterparts.
Above all, women defy great odds. With all the hurdles and barriers they face every day, and with all the voices that insist they’re inferior, they charge head-on. This is a key feature for leaders who encounter complications all the time, the capability to withstand a blow and fight. Sarah Attman, founder of Sarah Rose Public Relations said, “Women make great leaders because the odds are against us to lead. When you’re the underdog, it takes an extra push to get to the top. That’s why the women who emerge on top are extraordinarily strong and capable. We had to fight to get there!”
Women who are able to lead in politics and business have the zeal to empower other women, especially girls, to learn, lead and flourish. It’s important for young women to understand strength and courage, to be able to unravel their power and potentialities today and in the future.
Acumen Case Center – ‘Women & Leadership in Asia: Invaluable Leadership Lessons from 18 Women Leaders in 18 Countries.’ Book Launch Soon.
Set to be published is a book entitled ‘Women & Leadership in Asia: Invaluable Leadership Lessons from 18 Women Leaders in 18 Countries.’ The first part of a 3-series publication that showcases how Asian women leaders stimulate a spark of change within their own countries. It covers 18 women leaders from different Asian countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, The Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The concept for this material originated from one of the initiatives of Center for Asia Leadership Initiatives (CALI) called the Asia Leadership Trek, which was developed and supervised by CALI President Samuel Kim. The said program and its participants have explored more than 40 cities in 18 Asian countries. Throughout the project’s journey around Asia, piles of powerful and moving accounts from inspirational women have been heard and listened to, including socio-economic, political, and cultural narratives that made them the leaders that they are today. The book documented the different philosophies and leadership styles that these contemporary women leaders and pioneers swear by.
In the words of Ms. Win Win Tint, a featured leader from Myanmar, “The most important contribution any women leader can give to society is to inspire and empower more girls to take on leadership roles. People, especially women leaders themselves, have to start realizing that women have the capabilities to participate and contribute more.”
There aren’t a lot of literary materials available in the market that underline the challenges and achievements that women leaders encounter, particularly those from Asia. But in hopes of igniting initiative and inspiring young women who aspire to be future leaders, the book ‘Women & Leadership in Asia’ lobbies to fill the hole that typical leadership materials overlook. It is of great importance to understand and acknowledge Asian women to be devoted contributors to the world’s overall growth. Through this work, Western audiences will have a good glimpse of what and how Asia is today, and unravel unique perspectives and personalities of the featured accomplished women leaders.
These narratives are coupled with the leaders’ message and invitation to young Asian women who aspire to develop their leadership skills and hopefully, follow their footsteps.. ‘Women & Leadership in Asia: Invaluable Leadership Lessons from 18 Women Leaders in 18 Countries.’ will also be available on Amazon, November 2018.
By: Nathalie Ona