Women in Transformational Leadership...Why Now? - Part II

Benefits of Women Leadership

Benefits of women leadership abound especially in the areas of economics, politics, government, healthcare, education, arts, athletics and religion. Since women possess strong problem-solving skills, they are better communicators and negotiators. Conflict resolution is a top trait for leaders; women in these positions are more adept at facilitating beneficial outcomes that are well thought out and advantageous to the organization. Women in leadership positions motivate and inspire other women as well as young girls. They also re(educate) males on the potential that women possess, and project their usefulness to the workforce. A strong system of women-to-women mentorship would benefit women everywhere. Since the media is largely responsible for the perception of women's roles and their usefulness, more women at the helm would present a more balanced view of all types of women functioning in various roles.

Women in Authentic Transformational Leadership Positions

More women in leadership positions would yield more "more transformational and contingent reward behaviors, and fewer management-by-exception and laissez-faire behaviors." Additionally, women considering promotion to CEO are well-advised to employ inspirational motivation for their male followers and individualized consideration for the females. Women possessing a blend of both types of leadership motivational skills are more likely to ascend to the ranks of top leadership in a company. As better decision-makers, women are naturally more effective in leadership positions. Female leaders also possess participative, charismatic, value-based, humane-oriented, and team-oriented skills that are viewed as ideal by followers. This model of leadership traits clearly contradicts one that is solely based on goal-oriented outcomes, which are more associated with male leaders.

Relationship building forms the basis from which women lead, and transformational leadership operates from the standpoint of the leader caring about the follower's well-being. Women, would then, be more effective as transformational leaders than men, and their presence in leadership roles in that vein, is viewed as less threatening by males who are more adept at other types of leadership. Women's role in leadership is important enough not only to other women, but to society at large, and it warrants further research, application, legislation, education and support.

Inclusive Workplace/Workspace Design for Women

The new office space has been redefined to include virtual and hybrid. Coffee shops, home offices, and other spaces have reoriented what office space is; inclusive design means thoughtfully shifting from office-centric design to human-centric design. Inclusive design supports employees by transcending cultural, physical, and social dimensions. Contrary to exclusionary design, which divides people, inclusive design is established on the principle that a "design" (of a product, service, workspace, etc.) considers all of the possible human experiences. Inclusive design reorients interactions between people and their workplace to find a correlation where everyone can express their creativity, skills, and capabilities in ways that makes them feel comfortable, safe, respected and supported. Excluded communities (who are camouflaged with exclusive design) are brought back into the design decisions. Inclusive design expands the Accessibility aspect of DEIA; all individuals regardless of differentiators should be provided the same access to office spaces. Inclusive design is also reflected in attracting, retaining, and promotion in the workplace.

Benefits of inclusive design include deterring social, physical, gender, and cultural exclusion. An increase in mental wellness is represented when the static workplace begins to morph into a more dynamic space. Socially responsible organizations that practice inclusive design are more desirable to diverse, prospective talent. Inclusive design also creates spaces for workers to rethink other unconscious biases.

In the aftermath of compounded crises, people are increasingly looking to their employers for psychological safety. An environment that is welcoming and inclusive equips employees to perform better, increases retention and productivity, drives innovation and collaboration, and maximizes workers' performance, both individually and collectively.

Studies show that women are less likely to return to the traditional office than men are. Making a female-friendly inclusive design is not only better for women, but it is also better for all. Inclusive design can have a cascading effect and have intersectional influences on other groups of individuals in regards to race, sexual orientation, and age, who have been personally and socially impacted by exclusive design. Females are often the primary caregivers of both younger and older individuals and are functioning in multiple roles, so amplifying their voices in ways that support them is key. In addition to DEIA practices that support women, the following are some key female-friendly design element considerations for the workplace:

More windows, light, glass doors (offices), plants Natural woods and stones in architecture Allow customization of individual workspaces Daycare on site enclosed in glass, with cameras Capable women (and men) who have young children can observe their children from their desk or from nearby, More time is spent working versus making arrangements for off site daycare, pickup and drop off Personal items in bathrooms Mobile desks (sit/stand) Happy Days (massage, facial, meditation, etc.) Name office assets (ex: conference rooms) after discoveries/inventions/breakthroughs by women Proximity to restrooms, and multiple restrooms Ambient environment (adjustable lighting, heating, etc.) Quiet zones SAD lighting (Seasonal Affective Disorder) affects more women than men

Female friendly inclusive design, however, may unwittingly put women in the unwanted spotlight. In terms of leadership, some women want to be observed for their capabilities especially in fields that have been historically associated with men. Shifting mindsets goes beyond inclusive design which may actually backfire (either conceptually or actually) for these women. Inclusive design has to, therefore, be seamless and unobtrusive.

Additionally, the concept of gender has morphed significantly to include self-identification. Individuals seeing (female-friendly) initiatives may feel excluded, especially if they are male, gender-neutral, or non-binary, etc. They may feel that the intent of inclusive design has in fact excluded them. Companies should not only consider the effects of female-friendly design on the target group, but also the impact on the ones that are not targeted, in order to not shift into exclusive design.

Dr. Anderson is a professor at the Forbes School of Business and Technology with more than 20 years of experience in executive leadership and business. She is also a management consultant in the digital transformation space. She has combined years of extensive behavioral research with her proven abilities to manage complexity, volatility, and ambiguity in the realm of leadership, to become a leading expert in Authentic Transformational Leadership (ATL). Dr. Anderson's mission with ATL is to position leaders and businesses to create people-powered, future-proof solutions and sustainable success through authenticity, transparency, and mutual real-time accountability.

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