Recently, during a panel discussion on how to encourage more women into business, a young man asked me why this was so important to me. There is no simple answer to this question, as it is based on several strong beliefs. In my book "Leaders of the Third Kind", I deal with this issue in the last chapter. Here is an extract. Please note that some passages have been removed for reasons of space. These cuts are shown as: (…).
Excerpt from "Leaders of the Third Kind"
We all know the saying "Woman is the future of man", made famous by Jean Ferrat . But today, could it perhaps reflect the recovery that we are all hoping and waiting for since the 2008 financial crisis? Since that time, we have been searching for a new balance, and for leaders who would be capable of showing us a different path to follow. No model seems to be capable of resisting the arrival of these new revolutionaries. Some daring, audacious entrepreneurs, all around the world, in all lines of business, are challenging the established order, shaking up basic principles and reinventing new ways of doing business. And, as we have already noted, these revolutionaries are not only found in startups. They come from very varied backgrounds and they all want to be game-changers. And what if this revolution in the making took on a different "look"? Why not with features that are more and more feminine?
Yes, some progress but still not enough
In reality, we are still a long way from gender equality. Women in leadership positions are still rare. The statistics are there to remind us of this, even if the boundaries are beginning to shift slightly. Angela Merkel has established herself over the years as a great chancellor. Over recent years, some highly-talented women have been appointed to lead major multinationals, such as Meg Whitman at the head of Hewlett Packard Enterprise , Ursula Burns in control of Xerox Corporation, and Marissa Mayer in charge of Yahoo! Almost everywhere, talented and ambitious young women in their thirties are emerging, determined to come to power without being taken for fools. But this progress should not hide the large discrepancies that continue to exist in almost every area: the percentage of women executives in the overall population, the pay gap at equivalent levels of responsibility, the number of women sitting on an Executive Committee or holding a CEO position, the percentage of women holding a seat in a legislative assembly. The fact is that we won't see true equality for some time yet!
Let's break down the barriers!
Every year, it's more or less the same old story. We listen to the same discussions, we make the same statements, and we come up against the same blockages. Despite the symbolism that is connected with it, the "International Women's Day" has had little impact. Although it still raises awareness to some extent, it has mainly become a kind of stopgap measure, a day to remove any feelings of guilt! It is time to go further and more quickly, because women are a great asset in meeting the challenges that we face today, and for putting the human and social dimension back into the heart of discussions. (…)
Today's world has been designed by men for men. Taking into account women's issues has scarcely been touched on. Every year, men make a few concessions as a token of goodwill, but without giving in on the most important: power. They let women organize their dissatisfaction — in the form of discussions and conferences — and then throw them a few crumbs. In other words, they play for time. In reality, there is an abyss between the words and the actions. And although it seems obvious to many that women are about to arrive, in fact, attitudes have not really evolved all that much. The patriarchal model that has ruled supreme since the end of the 1940's is, however, doomed. How can we imagine today that a young woman, a graduate of a French school of management or an American university, would "sacrifice" herself for her husband's career? Why should she abandon her dreams, just because she's a woman? In moving from an industrial world to an economy centered on services and the digital world, new opportunities have opened for women. Furthermore, they are more successful at school and university than men, are often more thoughtful, better attached to reality. Their approach is more participative and less combative. They definitely seem more in a position to take advantage of the current transformations in society. The new equilibrium that should result from this can only be beneficial for our economies, as it has in fact been shown that the companies with the best gender mix are also those which display the best results.
In moving from an industrial world to an economy centered on services and the digital world, new opportunities have opened for women.
Consciously or unconsciously, some men have difficulty in accepting the idea of one day working with a woman in charge. The blocks are often psychological. For them, a woman conjures up a mother, a sister, a wife, in fact anything, but certainly not an immediate superior. Our western culture has put pre-established, stereotyped images into our heads, set in stone in our subconscious as eternal realities. And clichés die hard. "A mother cannot be nasty"; "A woman must be at her husband's service, take care of the children and the home"; "A man's role is to provide for the needs of the family". These are some of the leftovers of our education that will be difficult to erase. But women aren't prepared to wait any longer. They have liberated themselves, trampling on the models of yesterday. We are finally beginning to accept that a woman can dismiss an under-performing employee or fly into a rage, without losing her femininity. She can in fact exercise her leadership in her own way. Nowadays, she assumes her responsibilities without feeling that she is betraying herself as a woman or threatening a man's masculinity. The time has come for our way of thinking to evolve.
The arrival of women
Women have qualities that men do not have and vice versa. The two sexes are perfectly complementary and to define this better, we can refer to a study conducted by McKinsey & Company in September 2009, of 800 business leaders around the world, that insisted among other things on the specific attributes of women when they are in command .
Unlike men leaders [...] Women manage their ego in their own way [...] they do not give up easily.
In the light of the leadership styles mentioned earlier , women are often seen as visionary ("authoritative style"). They usually draw up detailed plans with clear stages to achieve their objective. Often, they are also sources of inspiration for those who listen to them and follow them. They are rarely directive ("coercive style"), even if they can be uncompromising faced with negligence or a lack of involvement or professionalism. Instead, they prefer discussion and participation in collaborative relationships ("affiliative style") and/or participation ("democratic style"). They generally devote time to their team's personal development ("coaching style"), something that men have more difficulty with, at least in a natural way. Unlike men leaders, they subscribe little to the image of the "big boss" ("pacesetting style"). Women manage their ego in their own way and do not necessarily need to be surrounded by similar profiles or "yes-men (or women)". When they make their expectations clear, they generally give their teams genuine autonomy. They have this desire to "make grow". They are persistent, they do not give up easily. Therefore, they have many important qualities that make some of them true pilots-in-command. They know how to rise above the worst storms and lead their teams in the most daring conquests (…).
Women will play an increasingly important role in the years to come, both in the discussion of ideas and in the leadership of companies and countries. There are many reasons for this emergence, but the main one is that their profile matches the leadership model that we need, to transform and manage tomorrow's society. They are less narcissistic than men, or at least they are more successful in managing their ego. Whether we are in favor of a readjustment or not, the movement has started and cannot be stopped. So now it's time for women!
 In a song paying tribute to the poet Louis Aragon who, in “Le fou d’Elsa”, mentions twice: “The future of man is woman”. Jean Ferrat chose to reverse the word order.
 And previously of HP, before the group separated into two companies on November 2, 2015.
 "Women leaders, a competitive edge in and after the crisis", Women Matter 3, September 2009, publication McKinsey & Company.
 The leadership styles described by Daniel Goleman.
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