Female talent is sparking a paradigm shift at the executive top table and overturning traditional boardroom cultures to increase business growth. Women in leadership roles are no longer operating from the sidelines, but showing how to build sustainable strategies and make incisive decisions that add value to customers and the bottom-line. Many commentators have highlighted the gender disparity at senior levels, but how are women in the workplace today able to overcome the obstacles and intelligently navigate the turbulent waves in the executive suite?

Faster, Smarter, Safer Opportunity

Publicly-traded companies with all-male boards were tallied to have lost out on $655 billion in potential profits across India, the UK and the US, according to research from accountancy firm Grant Thornton. In the technology industry, I am encouraged by the growing appetite for driving diversity with the goal of boosting performance and corporate dynamism. While barriers still exist, the process of overcoming hurdles can often yield valuable skills that men fast-tracked to the top may not have. The onus is ultimately on the individual. Women need to meet corporate challenges head-on, whereas businesses need to better understand the nuance and power of non-traditional developmental routes up the corporate ladder.

From my perspective, women leaders in the technology sector think ‘Faster, Smarter and Safer’. Faster in terms of being better equipped to make effective decisions and to react swiftly to market dynamics; Smarter at utilising knowledge to intelligently guide the operation successfully in turbulent times; and Safer by having the right set of people, tools and skills in place. Women who succeed also tend to emerge as effective and highly influential role models, inspiring others to progress their careers to the summit.

The return on investment for adequately and appropriately supporting female talent clearly helps firms to scale the talent pool, expand their service capability and, crucially, positively impact overall operational profitability. Many behavioural studies have revealed that women leaders tend to demonstrate stronger communication, cooperation, affiliation and nurturing skills than men who tend to be more goal-oriented and less focused on relationships and processes. Evidently, boardroom diversity can unlock and optimise new ways of strategic thinking that benefit everyone.

According to a recent report by the Rockefeller Foundation, only 21 women are at the helm of Fortune 500 Companies. Most market analysts would agree that if equality and opportunity were like a balance sheet, then women are clearly operating in the red. However, on a global scale, women are making a significant difference. The recipe for success to be an effective international leader, in my opinion, is like being a beacon of best practice – an individual who is a magnet for management that attracts all the traits needed to guide, educate, influence, analyse, communicate, inspire and orchestrate stakeholders across the commercial network. For women to be handed the keys to the boardroom door and take a seat at the top table, they need to hone their business skills and demonstrate the necessary disciplines. Susan L. Colantuono, CEO of Leading Women, noted in an interview that when determining whether a woman can lead the business “executives look for business, strategic and financial acumen.” This is what she calls the “missing 33% of the career success equation for women.”

A Balanced View

Are the tables turning towards an equal balance of talent in the boardroom? The irony is that whilst women in senior positions are statistically low across the globe, the firms that close the gender gap tend to experience major improvements in operational and trading results. Women are not necessarily better than men at fulfilling leadership roles or vice versa. It is more a case of achieving balanced executive dynamics, skills and a broader range of strategic perspectives that contribute to a robust chain of command. Ultimately, effective leaders are judged on merit and acumen whoever wears the trousers.

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March 8, 2017 marks International Women's Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. As a partner for International Women’s Day, F5 joins other organizations around the world to issue a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Join us and share your own commitment to #BeBoldforChange.