In the last decade, the representation of women in Kenyan boardrooms and executive suites has more than doubled. This is great news because, according to McKinsey and Leanin.Org, the presence of women in senior leadership positions leads to better financial performance and organizational sustainability.
In recent years, researchers have found that women are more likely to break through the glass ceiling of leadership when organizations face crises and find themselves in what Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam of the University of Exeter have called the “glass cliff”.
The glass cliff refers to a situation where women are appointed to top leadership positions in times of crisis or duress or when the possibility of failure is most likely. This phenomenon is maintained in organizational leadership in all fields, both in the public and private sectors.
In the 21st century, crises will become the norm rather than the exception. Organizations must increasingly cope with volatile, uncertain, rapidly changing and complex environments.
Economies are increasingly interconnected; Gen Z and millennials now make up the majority of the workforce, technological changes and digital disruptions are making workplaces more virtual, and more attention is being paid to the global sustainability agenda that expects organizations develop business models that adopt triple bottom line approaches.
There is no better example of this uncertainty than the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has tested business agility and required leadership approaches that value people and profit as critical measures of success.
By the way, a Harvard study by professors Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman found that women leaders in the US significantly outperformed men during the Covid-19 crisis.
Their study found that employees prioritized soft skills such as clear communication, collaboration, teamwork and relationship building. Female leaders also demonstrated greater awareness of employees’ fears and concern for their well-being, and therefore employees were more confident in their plans.
Whether male or female, at the end of the day, people want leaders who can pivot and learn these new leadership competencies; that emphasize the professional development of employees during difficult times; who can be trusted; who are sensitive to the stress, anxiety and frustration that people feel in their workplaces.
Considering that these are traits that women often embody, yes, perhaps women are the future of management. However, all leaders, regardless of gender, should strive to embody these qualities.
Christine is a Doctoral Fellow at the Strathmore Institute of Public Policy and Governance and The Africa Media Hub at Strathmore Business School and a Mindset Coach at the Meraki Institute.