Though there are still many strides to be made, things are looking up for women in the workplace. Accenture’s “Listen, Learn, Lead” Global Research 2015 report—which was based on a survey of 3,600 business professionals spanning entry-level to management—yielded some interesting trends, such as:

  •       Women CTOs will be more prevalent by 2030
  •       Companies are prepping more women for senior management than they were the previous year
  •       Women are asking for raises in the same numbers as men

These results point to a move in the right direction toward the type of workplace gender parity that enables anyone, man or woman, to succeed based on merit, performance, drive, and leadership suitability.

A common barrier to success

However, the study points to a common workplace barrier to success—the lack of soft-skills training. Why is this so important? Because the study also indicates that soft skills, such as the ability to listen and communicate effectively, manage change, and inspire others—are increasingly viewed by employees as important leadership skills.

In fact, a recent PEW survey of men and women in the United States supports these findings—indicating men and women alike also agree that honesty, intelligence, organisation, and decisiveness are essential leadership characteristics. Interestingly, respondents see these characteristics as descriptive of both men and women.

However, other valued leadership qualities—for example, compassion—tend to be viewed as more gender differentiated, both in terms of importance (women believe compassion is a more important leadership trait than do men) and in terms of who is more likely to exhibit a specific trait—a male or a female (women are viewed as more compassionate).

A changing business environment

In a business environment that is increasingly driven by social responsibility and humanistic motivations, compassion—and similar characteristics, such as consensus building and social consciousness—are likely to rise on the scale of importance when assessing leadership candidates.

Speaking in generalities, the case could be made that women are more adept at certain soft skills, whether by nature or nurture. As these types of skills become more valued in the workplace, women who are more predisposed to these traits could find themselves climbing the corporate ladder more quickly.

In my next post, I’ll delve more deeply into the question of which leadership skills are most important to today’s workforce and whether or not women have an inherent competitive advantage.

To learn more about positioning women to lead, please see:

Accenture “Listen/Learn/Lead” 2015 Report

PEW Social Trends Research 2015

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