Why does YOUR company need more women in leadership?

“The closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater the output of goods and services will be.”

Warren Buffett

The Women In Trucking mission includes encourage the employment of women working in the trucking industry. We understand that there is a need for professional drivers, and women are underrepresented in this area, but what about women in management?

You should strive for more women in your leadership roles.  Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it affects your bottom line.  Pepperdine University found a correlation between high-level female executives and business success.  The Harvard Business Review reported firms with the best records for promoting women outperform industry medians with overall profits thirty four percent higher.  Catalyst research found that companies with the highest representation of women leaders financially outperform, on average, companies with the lowest.

According to the department of labor, women only comprise fourteen percent of management roles in transportation.  Consider that women make up nearly half the labor force, more than half of all bachelor’s degrees, and over fifty percent of management roles on average, why is the trucking industry lagging in diversity?

There are many reasons that can be attributed to the scarcity of women in the C-Suite, but here are a few things to consider when hiring and promoting women at your company.

First, remember that women don’t need “fixing.”  What does that mean?  Don’t expect women to act like men.  Often diversity is about making minorities feel comfortable with the norm.  Picture a female airline pilot in a man’s suit and tie and you’ll understand what this means.

Many women feel as if they need to act like men to get ahead.  In a study by the British telecommunications firm, 02, twenty five percent of women felt this to be true, and wore slacks instead of skirts so they would be treated seriously.  The same study found that half of the women were afraid to show their true emotions at work, and one quarter of the women felt they needed to be ruthless to get respect.

Women avoid power structures and hierarchy, according to Deborah Tannen, in “Talking 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work.”  Tannen found that women do not enjoy self-promotion.  In fact, a Princeton University Press article states that women do not negotiate salaries or benefits as often as men.

A Proctor & Gamble study found that men typically oversell their abilities while women undersell theirs.  Or, as Wittenberg-Cox and Maintland state in, “Why Women Mean Business,” men who want power push for it, while women often need to be coaxed.

Research by Hewlett Packard found that men would apply for a position when they feel they meet sixty percent of the requirements, while women wait to apply when they believe they meet 100 percent of the criteria.

Blame it on testosterone if you wish, but women don’t like promoting themselves, even when they want more responsibility and greater leadership.  Women feel that their bosses should be able to identify talent and a woman’s contribution and promote her based on her accomplishments.

Apparently we do have some inherent bias toward the way women should act.  Yale Psychologist, Victoria Brescoll found that male executives who spoke more often than their peers were rates ten percent higher in competence, while female executives were rated fourteen percent lower in competence, by both men and women!

A famous study at Harvard Business School gave students a case study of a female entrepreneur, Heidi Roizen.  Half of the students received the same study with the name Howard instead of Heidi.  While both groups found Heidi/Howard to be competent, Heidi was viewed as “selfish” and “not the person you would like to work for” by both male and female students.

How can your company ensure greater diversity and avoid some of these limiting practices?  Value women’s contributions (team building, collaboration) and reconsider what characteristics you are looking for in a leader.  Create a gender-neutral environment, and identify and promote more women into management roles. Make your current CEO team accountable for promoting women and set targets for future hires and promotions.

When possible, offer networking and mentoring opportunities for the women in your current and future management team. Make sure your current female leaders are visible as well.

You know that creating a more diverse leadership team is the right thing to do and you know that it can increase your company’s profits as well.  Let’s see if we can move beyond fourteen percent in the coming year and change the image of the trucking industry into one more welcoming for women.

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