Female leadership: how to deal with stereotypes, overcome difficulties and ageism?
Deloitte’s 2020 Women CEOs in Russia survey found that one out of five Russian companies is run by a woman. However, these companies are often small, and their revenue does not reach even one million rubles a year. Why does it happen? Ekaterina Petrova, director of the Corporate Innovation Development Platform shared her opinion.
Women leaders today still face some difficulties and are forced to overcome many stereotypes. Ekaterina Petrova, director of the GenerationS Corporate Innovation Development Platform which is part of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, told us about them and what it is like to be a leader in a large Russian company.
Ekaterina Petrova, director of the GenerationS Corporate Innovation Development Platform.
Popular fields of development for women today
The largest number of female leaders are now developing businesses in the field of fintech: here we are talking not only about the classic business in large companies, but also about the direction where the concentration of start-ups, new technologies and solutions that can compete with traditional financial institutions is the highest. Fintech is growing rapidly, and in such dynamic field, women are ready to take risks, make decisions and bear responsibility, so that the company develops faster and becomes competitive in the market. Another area where women are actively developing is food technology. It is the creativity of women and their ability to feel the sphere that help to make this business segment more flexible and adapted to the life of even the busiest people.
Ageism and what to do about it?
A common problem in business is the age bias. You can be full of ideas, but not always your initiatives are perceived positively. People around you may think that due to your youth you are not able to fully assess the risks and think over the strategy correctly. This attitude is often confusing, so it’s important to show the strength of character.
In fast-growing startups, a leadership position can be obtained fairly quickly. Here, the key quality is the ability to move the process forward, quickly solve problems, look for different ways to achieve goals. In this segment, there are girls who, by the age of 25, already become top managers. However in large companies, everything is somewhat different: positions of a fairly high level are usually reached by the age of 40, because it is important to have experience and understanding of how to build a single process, how to work with a large team.
To have a successful career and happy family— is it possible?
We are used to hearing that a successful career and a happy family or a family in general are almost incompatible things. This stereotype has been fought in society for a long time. It all depends on the woman herself, her internal routine and desire to build a balance between work and life. Yes, sometimes this is not easy to do, but it is possible if you feel how much time should be given to the family to ensure the harmonic and healthy relationships. At work, you have to constantly keep in mind a lot of tasks, and the solution is most often required “here and now”. Sometimes it seems like the time in the day is just not enough. When this moment comes, it is important to calmly exhale and understand what you really need. You do not have to choose one thing — you need to set priorities correctly, build a system that is comfortable, first of all, for you.
Difficulties female leader faces?
Finding balance is a serious problem for women in high positions. But, as the practice shows, it is, unfortunately, not the only one. To make other people count with you and hear you is another challenge for women in business. You can develop a cool development strategy, form new directions, assemble a team of strong specialists, set bold goals and achieve them, but sometimes even this is not enough. There were moments in my life when I had to repeatedly prove that I was doing the right thing and leading the team in the right direction. Not everyone can hear you at the first time of asking, so be patient. Another stereotype that has passed from life to work: women are the weaker sex. It follows from this that they are unlikely to succeed in becoming “business sharks”. In such situation, you have to show character, clearly formulate tasks and prove that your proposals can greatly change the situation for the better inside the company or outside it. It is important to defend your position, but with intelligence and the right arguments.
How to build relationships with the team?
A real leader will never work alone and will make every effort to effectively build relationships with the team, to make communication between colleagues comfortable and productive. It is necessary to organise the joint work, so that everyone understands what goal they are moving towards, that they can grow and develop professionally.
It is important for a leader to be a role model for colleagues and inspire confidence. Showing others the direction for professional growth is easier when there is an open dialogue in the team. A good leader always listens to the opinions of colleagues, without trying to put themselves above them. However, colleagues should also be prepared for possible constructive criticism from the leader and in no case be offended and not take it as demotivation. When you work together on a project putting efforts in it as everyone else, the team begins to believe in you. People understand that everything they do, they do not just as hired employees, but as a united whole.
Motivation is another important point that follows from this. Your team needs to be interested, inspired, dedicated. And here we mean not only financial motivation, but also professional growth. It is important to feel what the employee wants and what you, as a leader, can offer them, so that they can reach their potential. But at the same time, the leader needs to take the initiative, be able to make decisions quickly and remain calm in any extraordinary situation. They are responsible for overcoming the difficulties that stand in the way of the goal. If you understand that the processes are not moving, then it is important to give them a push.
Tips for female leaders
The first and most important tip is to set ambitious and bold goals for yourself. The higher the goal and the more obstacles that arise on your way, the better the result will be — it is proven by personal experience. And try to keep work-life balance. It may seem difficult, but after a while, after working on yourself, you will learn to live in multitasking mode and pass everything through your personal filters.
It is equally important to remain objective and minimize negative emotions. The more open and receptive you are to everything that happens around you, the greater success you will achieve. Expand your knowledge and horizons: no need to focus only on work. Try to be interested in various aspects of life, read a lot, learn new things, be in trend. So you will become a source of knowledge for your colleagues and close circle.