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When Women Lead

Imagine a world where women hold more wealth than men. A world where there are more women CEOs at the helm of powerful organizations.

How would the global landscape appear differently? Would we see positive movement toward less violence and more equality? Would we find innovative solutions to global climate change and eradicate political and corporate corruption? Would the gender pay gap finally be closed? Or would we more or less maintain the status quo?

It’s a thought experiment that remains in the hypothetical — for now, at least. More and more women are reaching the billionaire mark than ever before. Since 2010, the number of female billionaires has risen by 268%, with the largest annual increase occurring in 2021. Today, 11.8% of the world’s billionaires are women. (source)

Women are achieving billionaire status earlier than men as well. Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO of the dating app Bumble, recently broached a billion dollars at the young age of 31. Rihanna hit the mark at age 33 thanks to her successful music and fashion career. On average, female billionaires earn their title 3 years earlier than their male counterparts.

And, though movement is slow, there are more female CEOs today than ever before. Change is happening. The question is: what will be the tipping point? Will we ever arrive there?

While a world in which women hold the majority of wealth is a distant possibility, we have several recent examples of how this power shift could change the world in a revolutionary and radical way. There is much evidence to suggest that women handle wealth and power much differently than men. We would argue that, more often than not, women are getting it right.

A Tale of Two Giants: Sara Blakely & Jeff Bezos

Sara Blakely and Jeff Bezos have several things in common. Both are billionaires. Both revolutionized their industries with innovative concepts and products. Both are in their 50s. And, they both appear in the headlines with relative regularity. It’s here that most of the similarities end, however.

Bezos makes the news with frequent labor disputes and pieces decrying unfair work conditions inside his warehouses. He is notoriously labeled an active “union buster”, trying to keep his employees from organizing. Then there’s the spaceship hobby…

Blakely, on the other hand?

Well, her name appears in headlines such as:

People told Sara Blakely founding a business meant ‘going to war.’ Instead, she led Spanx with ‘intuition’ and ‘vulnerabilityForbes

Spanx CEO surprises every employee with 2 first-class plane tickets and $10,000NPR

In 2012, Sara Blakely became the world’s first female self-made billionaire following the incredible success of her brand Spanx. Blakely is known for her positive leadership style and authenticity in sharing her story and the “Why” behind her product.

When it came time to celebrate a remarkable moment in her business, the $1.2 billion sale of a majority stake in Spanx to investment firm Blackstone, Blakely made what some found to be a surprising choice. She spread the wealth to her employees, gifting them each with $10,000 and 2 first-class plane tickets to any destination in the world.

Contrast that with billionaire Jeff Bezos celebrating his massive success by building a spaceship for himself and other billionaires to play with.

His message to his notoriously overworked, underpaid and dissatisfied workforce?

“I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this.” “All this”, being… a personal space craft for the richest man in the world.

Blakely’s words of gratitude to her employees stand in stark contrast to those of Bezos, sharing on Instagram “I really want every employee to celebrate this moment in their own way and create a memory that will last them a lifetime! Cheers to 21 years of magic and many more to come …. 🥂”

Is this simply a difference in leadership styles, values, and personality? Or is it more indicative of an inherent difference in how men and women show up in life and business?

Several signs point to the gender gap being very real, in more ways than one.

The Female CEO Effect

A study by global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry gathered data about the unique ways in which female CEOs view their role as leaders. What they found seems to quantify that female CEOs are changing what it means to be a leader.

Some of the clear traits determined by their study include:

  • Strongly motivated by a sense of purpose
  • Deeply held beliefs that their company could have a positive impact on their community, employees, and the world
  • Fostering a positive culture is top of mind for most
  • Leadership style marked by humility
  • More frequent expressions of appreciation for others
  • More willingness to share the credit for achievements
  • A lack of self-promotion
  • More willingness to engage in teamwork and collaboration

Other studies, like this one from S&P Global Market Intelligence, have proven that companies led by female executives tend to have better overall financial performance than the market average.

Fifty percent of Americans say they’d prefer to work at a female-led company over a male-led company because they’re more purpose-driven, more likely to have access to childcare, and are more likely to offer equal pay, according to a study conducted by Berlin Cameron, The Harris Poll and The Female Quotient.

When women lead, employee engagement goes up, people relate more directly to the overall mission and purpose of the company, and have better overall job satisfaction.

All signs seem to point to the massive advantage that exists when companies are led by women. So why are we still so sorely underrepresented at the executive level?

In 2020, only 5% of CEOs appointed globally were women. Today, there are only 41 Fortune 500 companies led by women. Of those, only 2 are women of color.

How to Make a Difference

Smashing through the patriarchal norms of the corporate world is not going to happen overnight, but it will happen sooner if more women, and male allies in power, bravely raise their voices about the inequality.

We need more press coverage sharing the quantifiable data that proves female-led organizations are more profitable.

Women need more opportunities to advance their skills and responsibilities inside their organizations, without being penalized for taking maternity leave or caring for sick family members.

There is much to be done in terms of supporting women in the workplace, starting with speaking up bravely when sexist microaggressions occur or when a woman’s hard work and contribution is glossed over, or worse, when someone else takes the credit from her.

Boards of directors must be repeatedly confronted with the data. Gender aside, what reputable board would dismiss the opportunity to produce three times the returns as compared to others in the industry?? Because that’s what the numbers show.

As one Forbes article put it, “the link between gender diversity and better results is undeniable.”

It’s time to shout this fact from the rooftops.

When women lead, the entire world benefits.

Join the Brave Media Network movement as we fight for positive change and celebrate brave women everywhere.

Are you ready to wake up every day and live your bravest life?

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