How to Overcome the Challenges Women Leaders Face

Published: 18th February 2010
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While some women business executives have reached the corner office or the corporate board, the equity of their representation in key leadership roles remains more a story of what's possible in the future rather than what has been achieved to date.

A poll of consulting executive search leaders from the global offices of TRANSEARCH International reveals mixed results about the advancement of women yet also a very clear consensus that companies will soon be forced to confront the institutional obstacles facing women.

"Women have made extraordinary strides in all facets of government, business and society in general," says Alexandra Hamlet, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of TRANSEARCH. "Although there still remain hurdles for a significant number of women, particularly in labour intensive and non-traditional jobs, individual women in leadership roles with drive, capability, commitment, and resolve have been very successful and have competed, from my consulting experience, as equals in the aerospace and defense executive spaces."

In the most progressive of corporate environments, women may have some advantage over their male colleagues, as some companies have resorted to offering a recruitment fee premium for candidate short-lists that include women and/or cultural minorities.

"If a leading executive is required for a management position and women and men with the same skills are available, then surely a woman could have an advantage, because many companies want a management in which both genders are active with the objective of "learning from diversity" or "thinking in a different way," says Lea Sauer, a Managing Partner in the Zurich office of TRANSEARCH.

Yet in other parts of the world, and in Europe in particular, the advancement of women business leaders is contradictory, and the subject of ongoing debate. "As far as I can see in France, I am afraid the glass ceiling is still very far from shattering," says Claire Floreani, a consultant in the TRANSEARCH Paris office. "I would rather say there are more and more young and talented women 'trapped' below the glass ceiling."

Likewise, Elinor Hartung, a consultant in the Gothenburg office of TRANSEARCH adds: "I cannot see that women are any closer to shattering the glass ceiling compared to the past, at least in Sweden."

Sangeeta Pal, a consultant with TRANSEARCH India, says that her own experiences suggest that while business and functional competencies on the job and leadership styles remain the nonnegotiable mantras for success for any man or woman, women leaders - in most cases - may just have to work that much harder to reach the echelons of power.

"Working harder doesn't necessarily apply to long hours," Pal suggests, "but to a 'magic' of managing people and processes in the most effective manner to get the desired results. Those include, respect, commitment from teams, and gaining the loyalty of peers and subordinates."

Despite the disparity of these views, making corporate executive and board leadership more inclusive of women is widely viewed as a way to connect more meaningfully with consumer segments, to provide equity in terms of employee career advancement and to optimize opportunities for innovation.

This article is an extract of the White Paper entitled 'Scratching the Surface: Women in the Boardroom'. Get your copy of the full White Paper via the Transearch International website at Executive search firm Transearch International is delighted to share the exceptionally well informed perspectives of some of their top executive search consultants.

Note to Editors: About Transearch International
Executive search firm TRANSEARCH International has representation in most of the major economic centres of the world with 59 offices in 37 countries. TRANSEARCH International was founded in 1982 and is a leading international executive search firm. How to Overcome the Challenges Women Leaders Face

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