History is littered with inspiring and successful female leaders, all of whom were (and are) prominent and made and still make impact on those around them. Successful women. Successful female leaders. Empowered women. And they were not necessarily in the upper ranks of politics or at the top of Organisations, but ordinary women like you and me who made a difference somehow, in some way. Female leadership, strong women.
- Rosa Parks – a powerful figurehead for the civil rights movement in the US who refused to give up her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery City bus.
- Emmeline Pankhurst – one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century, she shaped strong gender equality opinions at the time and is synonymous with women’s suffrage.
- Malala Yousafzai – standing up for education for girls and an international stateswoman for equal rights.
- Amelia Earhart – the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928.
The issue of Gender inequality
Gender shouldn’t be a factor about a person being a great leader — a person’s leadership skills should depend on their individual strengths, personality traits, knowledge and their ability to influence others positively.
Sadly, gender inequality in the workplace has meant that in many cases, women have not been encouraged to take on leadership roles as often as their male counterparts have, they have not been encouraged to aspire to great heights in all fields which has contributed to not only an imbalance of power at all levels but more so to skewed Organisations and societies that could thrive more than they do.
Only 23 Fortune 500 Companies were led by women. But women are just as qualified as men are to lead, so why is there such a huge disparity between them?
Huffington Post (2018)
In a 2015 study by talent management Company Saba Software, it was found that women are more hesitant to speak up about their career ambitions and are driven more by intrinsic motivations about work, rather than what their jobs or employers demand from them.
- In contrast to men, who tend to be career-centric and want to maximize their financial return from work, women view work more holistically, as a component of their overall life plan.
- Women are more likely to approach their careers in a self-reflective way and value factors such as meaning, purpose, connection with co-workers and work-life integration greatly.
- Sixty-five percent of women (versus 56 percent of men) said they view leaders as those who share their knowledge and connect with their colleagues to help the team and the business succeed.
- With this inclusive attitude, women make stronger, more-effective leaders.
- Despite these disadvantages, the survey found that only 60 percent of women feel they are leaders based on their participation in their business.
- Women may not always realize how poised for success they are in leadership roles, but their potential and abilities are undeniable.
5 inspiring female Australian leaders
To recognise female trailblazers and leaders in their field, I have chosen five Australian women who have led the way for future generations of women, although we still have a long way to go, let these legends inspire you today.
- Ita Buttrose – distinguished journalist, business woman and best-selling author. Former Editor in Chief of the iconic Australian Women’s weekly.
- Evonne Goolagong – Australia’s most celebrated female tennis star, ranked number on I the world in 1971 and 1976 and was named Australian of the year in 1071.
- Professor Elizabeth Blackburn – the first women to win a Nobel Prize in recognition for her achievements in Physiology and Medicine.
- Edith Cowan – the first Australian woman to serve as a member of Parliament in 1921.
- Michelle Payne – the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup – coincidentally she was wearing the colours of the suffragette movement on the day.
3 key characteristics of these women leaders
- Self-belief – they each backed themselves all the way and still do (those who are still alive).
- Resilience – even when things got tough, they stayed the distance. Giving up was not an option.
- Courage – brave enough to know their road was long and tough but courageous enough to stay in it.
Why do women make good leaders?
They tend to be collaborative and value teamwork
Women value the ‘collective’ approach and are more prone to work together with each other than alone. In that spirit, here is a collective approach to answering this question, with quotes on this subject from some amazing, strong female leaders:
- Women are empathetic. Being the ‘nurturer’ in traditional roles, women tend to value relationships more and can see something from the other person’s perspective. This makes getting along much easier in Organisations.
“Most women are naturally empathetic and value relationships. This enables them to have a strong understanding of what drives and motivates people, and how to acknowledge different people for their performance.” – Anna Crowe, CEO and founder, Crowe PR
- They make great listeners. “Women make great leaders, because we take the time to listen instead of reacting right away. We appreciate people and their viewpoints. Whether they are right or wrong, we hear them out and then make our decision. We tend to give people chances that no others do.” – Jo Hausman, Career and Leadership Coach
- They have mastered the art of multi-tasking. “Their ability to respond swiftly to a range of challenges at the same time is a critical component in successful leadership.” – Carolann Tutera, President, SottoPelle
- They’re generally effective communicators. “Good female leaders know how to communicate well and how to change their stance with different audiences. They communicate regularly, clearly and openly.” – Tina Bacon-DeFrece, President, Big Frog
- They have big dreams. “Strong female leaders can dream big and have goals they achieve. They can be particularly inspiring and know how to translate ideas into results” – Angela Dejene, executive vice president, Crosswind Media & Public Relations
- They leave their egos outside. “Egos are the downfall of so many Organisations and people who could be good leaders. Women tend to hold their ego in check in leadership roles, which is a key advantage of working with people at all levels.” – Joan Wrabetz, CTO, Quali
- They’re flexible. Women are flexible and able to change plans quickly. Generally, this could be because they wear so many hats (including juggling children) so changing direction quickly is easier for women. It’s a fantastic skill to have in the workplace.
- They lead by example. “Women work hard. They carry a heavy load and they are good role models for other and younger women. If you want something done, ask a woman leader to make it happen!” – Harriet Taub, executive director, Materials for the Arts
- They are relentless and resilient. “Women leaders don’t give up. They know their worth and they just keep going. Many have to fight to get to the top, and stay there, and they have achieved this through a relentless will to win and a resilient attitude.” – Sarah Attman, principal, Sarah Rose Public Relations
Empowered women, successful female leaders, strong women all with goals, belief in a purpose and who back themselves have all become outstanding in their own right.
Coaching the 2017 Australian CEO of the Year
In 2016 I coached the f A successful strong woman who excels at leadership, her thoughts about what makes a successful leader shine can be viewed below:
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