I’ve had nothing but positive examples of strong, power-contributing women in my life. Even amongst traditional sexism and discrimination, the women that came before me set an expectation of what I can achieve with hard work and the level of respect I deserve.
My paternal grandmother was a strong woman who had no intention of living in my grandfather’s shadow. He owned a building-materials business for which my grandmother decided to become the construction contractor; buying and leveling the land. She also built up a trucking business to support it.
My mother is also a natural businesswoman and strong character. She came from a poor neighborhood and was determined to escape the fate of many of her contemporaries: getting married while still a teenager. While she was at school, my mother made money by writing articles and publishing them in a weekly bulletin that she distributed to other classes. She also rejected the advances of one smitten young man who often took money from his family to buy her gifts because she values independence, not entitlement.
Where are All of the Female Leaders?
Having seen these exemplary women working so hard, it has caused me to reflect on my journey in the corporate world and why more women aren’t represented at the highest levels of leadership. While there have undoubtedly been improvements in female representation, it still isn’t what it could or should be. Vietnam has several female CEOs, and, overall, 73 percent of women are engaged in the workforce compared to 82 percent of men—according to the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO). It is a very high percentage compared with other countries. There are many women working in factories, or who own small businesses, running their own shops and stalls.
But the ILO also says the high figure is misleading since many women are in low-paying jobs. As a result, Vietnam only ranks 26th out of 108 countries in terms of female managers. The ILO undertook an analysis of job ads and discovered that 83 percent of managerial positions being advertised specified that the candidates should be male. When it came to director-level positions, the figure was 100 percent.
Why More Women Should Be at the Table
There are differences between men and women. These differences should be celebrated, as they are the very combination you want working to your advantage for your business. We have seen this in our organization. THP has several departments where women dominate and many of them are customer-facing. We find that women are more consistent when it comes to the fine details and are less likely to defraud us. We also find that they are generally more loyal.
Consider your sales team and the difference in approach between men and women. Men are very good at closing deals, but they often seek to move on to the next kill. By contrast, women tend to care far more about providing good after-sales service, which can be a differentiator for your company.
Involving more women can only help an organization. In fact, a report done by Morgan Stanley addressed the importance of gender diversity in the corporate world. “More gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings, can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction.” It also went on to quote Jessica Alsford, Head of SRI Research. “Gender diversity can improve team decision-making and improve innovation capabilities for development of new products or services,” says Alsford. “It can also create alignment with diverse customer bases and, thus, open up untapped business opportunities.”
Women are not better than men – just as men are not better than women. They are just different, and it is in everyone’s best interest to recognize and leverage those differences.
First Featured on Forbesbooks.com