An academic take on the gains made by women in the corporate world

Men and women bring unique skills and talents to the table when it comes to leadership.

The business sector would be wise to recognize the different approaches they take. That can be a challenge, however, in a world where mere words about what men and women do or don’t do well can have unintended consequences.

“It’s a sensitive topic,” says H. Eric Schockman, Ph.D., chair and associate professor for the Center for Leadership at Woodbury University. “But it’s not a competition of who is right and who is wrong. It’s the recognition — a practical reality for those who run corporations and the channels of power — that we need to understand and let the individual strengths of the sexes run on their own encouragement and build those up.”

Schockman is also president and founder of the Global Hunger Foundation, dedicated to helping women in the developing world break the chains of poverty by funding projects designed to provide sustainable development and organic farming.

He is keenly aware of, and has done vast research, on the plight of women to measure up and climb the ladder in today’s business world.

Smart Business spoke with Schockman about his findings and the value of allowing both men and women to be themselves in the workplace.

What strides have women made in terms of corporate leadership influence?
It’s important to explore leadership differences between men and women. The debate has great implications for the bottom line, for public leadership and for the future of how we as a society and a world really prosper.

You’ve seen this growth of women in all industries and in all parts of the workforce. They are beginning to find their own ethos of leadership.

You now have a woman running General Motors. That’s unbelievable. If what’s good for General Motors is good for the U.S., what does that tell you about the power of women in the corporate suite?

The whole notion of how we see the gender maturation of both sexes is an important part of starting this evolution of thinking from the 20th century to the 21st century.

What does academic research show when it comes to women in leadership positions?
Women negotiate the world very differently when you talk about economics and how they sense closing the gaps in equity that threaten family and social order.

Research from the World Bank shows that women direct up to 90 percent of their income back into community infrastructure and improvement while men invest 30 to 40 percent of their income.

Women have a different proclivity to be change agents and accelerate decision-making power when dealing with positive developmental outcomes.

Women have been able to think differently, lead differently and have a better sense of thinking how you operate from outside closed networks, which means adapting and creating your own roles.

How can an organization of men and women move forward as one team?

The critical transformation for a CEO is to do this in a more non-threatening way.

Rather than focusing specifically on what we know in the research and the science behind the research, talk more holistically about transformational leadership and how both sexes can use it to get a further training modality to uplift employees so they can do a better job.

They buy into the team. They understand their role in productivity. They can think before we even think. We’re talking about how to find successful leadership that inspires, that has positive role modeling and is concerned about followers and employees.

What does the future hold for women in leadership?

The noted leadership scholar Dr. Bernard Bass predicts that by 2034, the majority of high-level leaders will be women, and men will have to realize their old ways of “command and control” will not be the most effective way to lead.

The idea that people could be managed scientifically was a revolution in the 1900s. In 2014, it’s a different group of people that want to help the scientific management process move forward. Including women in that team of leadership shows it’s a better way to meet your bottom line. ●

Insights Executive Education is brought to you by Woodbury University