By Rebecca Kelly, CEO and founder, VenueScanner

While the gap between men and women in leadership roles is slowly closing, according to a recent report by the Fawcett Society less than a third of the UK’s top jobs are currently held by women (including just eight at the head of FTSE 100 firms).

And in the technology sector in which my business operates, just five percent of leadership positions are held by women, says PwC.

But when you consider that women-owned SMEs contribute more than $85 billion to the country’s economic output and listed firms where at least one-third of the bosses are women have a profit margin more than 10 times greater than those without, why are women still not taking up an equal proportion of leadership positions?

Is there a gap in desire for leadership roles due to the traditional views of what leadership is or the stereotypical view of what it means to be a good leader? We need to challenge the traditional view of leaders as aggressive , dominant problem-solvers who don’t make mistakes and instead champion the qualities that many female leaders possess – empathy, vulnerability and collaboration – and celebrate their success in order to inspire the next generation.

Empathy

While there are many qualities that make for an effective leader, for me empathy, the ability to understand how others feel and being compassionate towards them, tops the list. A recent employee study from Catalyst showed that empathy in the workplace results in increased levels of innovation, engagement, retention and inclusivity. Leaders who put people over profit will succeed in the longer term.

Collaborative

For me, it’s important that each employee at VenueScanner understands the vision and purpose of the business and more specifically, how their role fits into that.

This collaborative style and openness helps to drive innovation, productivity and retention across the team because everyone is brought into the company’s success. It doesn’t matter if you are an intern or a board member, everyone can contribute, make lasting change and be a driver of success.

Without collaborative and open leadership, employees can feel isolated and side-lined which only results in dissatisfaction and ultimately, resignations. 

Vulnerability

Brene Brown, a leading expert on social connection, suggests that vulnerability is a crucial leadership quality and one of the must have strengths for a leader to succeed in today’s business world. And that’s because running a successful business is all about building strong relationships – with employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders – and that requires being open and honest and showing vulnerability.

Being a vulnerable and therefore authentic leader builds a greater deal of trust between you and your employees. And a business built on trust leads to increased happiness, productivity and therefore performance for everyone.

I never used to think I was cut out to be at exec level, let alone run my own business, because growing up I viewed successful leaders as cold and cutthroat. But what I have learned is that successful leadership is all about getting the best out of the people around you and that takes empathy, collaboration, and vulnerability above anything else.

Only by overcoming the misconceptions around what it takes to succeed can we hope to rectify the gender imbalance and encourage more women into leadership positions moving forward.

Rebecca KellyAbout the author

Rebeca Kelly is CEO and founder of tech start-up, VenueScanner. She has featured in the Forbes 30 under 30 programme and is passionate about championing female empowerment in the workplace, particularly as she operates in a male dominated industry and many of her fellow entrepreneurs are men.

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