International Women's Day 2021: What will you #Choose To Challenge? | by Delaney Tosh

International Women's Day 2021 - Happy Multicultural Women Friends

International Women's Day (IWD) is a global celebration of women, an acknowledgement of historical—and more recent—achievements, as well as an ongoing movement to ensure that women are seen and treated as equals.

According to InternationalWomen'sDay.com 1

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Reading up on this year's IWD 2021 theme, #ChooseToChallenge, had me pause to examine my own experiences as a woman and as a coach of women in business and leadership roles.

The questions I asked myself were:

  • What are the choices I make—as a woman, as a coach, as an advocate?
  • What do I need to challenge in myself—in my roles, my beliefs and biases, my actions?
  • What challenges are my clients facing—the obvious and the implicit; the internal and the external?
  • What can I call forth in myself to better acknowledge the unique strengths of women and, specifically, my women clients?
  • What can I call forth in myself and others to help accelerate gender parity?

3 Huge Benefits Women Bring to the Table

Research speaks loud and clear on the many advantages of having women at the table—in teams, organizational and political leadership, education, research and more.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

1) Better problem solving and greater innovation

Research shows that having more women in leadership positions brings a wider variety of perspectives and approaches, which results in better problem solving and innovation.

For example, I've just read a biography 2 of the Widow Clicquot (of Veuve Clicquot champagne), which offers an interesting historical example: In the early 1800s, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot convinced her in-laws to let her take over the failing family wine business when her husband died at an early age. The Champagne industry was forever changed for the better by Madame Clicquot's innovation called remuage, today known as riddling. Her innovation effectively removed the yeast deposits that made the wine cloudy, creating a clear and far more appealing Champagne.

She also forged ahead to search out new markets that others in the industry were ignoring during a period of war and economic turmoil. She transformed a failing business into an empire and took Champagne from a not-very-appealing novelty product with limited markets to the international renown it enjoys today.

2) Increased profitability

Several studies over the past decade 3, and recently the Peterson Institute for International Economics survey 4 of 22,000 public companies, have all found that the presence of female leaders in top positions of corporate management correlates with increased profitability.

According to a leading global consultancy firm, McKinsey & Company:

"In the UK, greater gender diversity on the senior executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10% increase in gender diversity, earnings before interest and taxes rose by 3.5%." 5

3) Outstanding leadership

Female leaders rate higher than men on collaboration, establishing stretch goals, taking initiative, driving for results and displaying integrity and honesty.

A Harvard Business Review analysis 6 of a survey of 7,280 leaders in "successful and progressive organizations…both public and private, government and commercial, domestic and international" found that women are "rated higher in 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership."

Overall, the skills women rate higher in are those that contribute to improved problem solving and innovation, leadership, and skills that support teams characterized by enhanced trust and productivity.

Bringing the challenge to ourselves and our clients

Yet women still face many challenges. These include being heard and respected, the impacts of implicit bias and stereotyping, receiving quality mentorship and sponsorship, and receiving equal remuneration and advancement opportunities.

So, as coaches:

  • How do we call ourselves forth and #ChooseToChallenge how we coach?
  • How do we call forth our female clients?
  • And how do we challenge our organizational and leadership clients to make equitable opportunities available, to accelerate gender parity?

Because what's been undeniably shown to be true is that when girls and women have access to the same opportunities as boys and men, unhampered by implicit biases and discrimination, companies and communities do better. 7

Increasing our awareness of beliefs and biases

As coaches, it's important to help our female clients become aware of their own limiting beliefs and behaviours, and gain confidence.

But it's equally important, if not more so, to be aware of our own unconscious bias and the impact it may have on our coaching.

We must recognize that women have unique inherent strengths and leadership styles that are equally important, even though these may not fit within the old paradigm of leadership and gender stereotypes.

It's also important to acknowledge that whatever biases and challenges women face as a whole, women of colour and non-cis-gendered people face additional biases and challenges. We must be both sensitive to and understanding of these particular challenges in our coaching with individuals and within organizations.

Wrap-up

There is an opportunity to radically shift how our organizations work and invite a more evolved and balanced way of leading and coaching organizations that supports individual, team and organizational resilience.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What do you #ChooseToChallenge within yourself?
  • What resistance shows up that you could be curious about?
  • What is a more balanced perspective you could explore?
  • What do you #ChooseToChallenge in your workplace and community?
  • What do you do when you notice gender bias, discrimination or stereotypes in the workplace? What could or will you do next time?
  • How do you seek out and celebrate women's achievements?
  • What could you do to own your own achievements as a woman (if you are one)?
  • What are you doing to celebrate International Women's Day?

References:

1 InternationalWomen'sDay.com

2 The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J. Mazzeo; 2009; HarperCollins.

3 Study: Firms with More Women in the C-Suite Are More Profitable; 2016; Harvard Business Review

4 Working Paper: Is Gender Diversity Profitable? Evidence from a Global Survey; 2016; Peterson Institute for International Economics:

5 Diversity Matters, McKinsey & Company; Report January 2015

6 Are Women Better Leaders Than Men?; 2012; Harvard Business Review

7 Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls; World Bank; 2018

Delaney Tosh Headshot

Contributing author: Delaney Tosh, CPCC, PCC, coaches women who want to radiate with confidence and thrive as leaders. She helps her clients navigate the hurdles unique to women in leadership and delivers the Resilience at Work® Toolkit and Resilience at Work® Leader Scale, helping leaders and teams create optimal performance through resilience. She is the co-creator of the Phoenix-Hearted Woman retreats (now virtual), which help women strengthen what has them thrive as leaders. Connect with Delaney at SquarePeg Leadership or on LinkedIn.

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