The Incredible Impact of Having More Women Leaders

May 21, 2019

Here’s to a future where every woman and girl feels empowered to pursue her ambitions. 

When women lead, everyone succeeds. This isn’t just a slogan, although it does have a nice rhyme to it. In practice, the data shows that when women are empowered, progress happens. 

What kind of progress? Let’s dive right in!

Women Leaders Run Profitable Businesses  

To build a profitable business pretty much anywhere in the world, it pays to have female executives: In 2016, the Peterson Institute for International Economics surveyed nearly 22,000 companies across 91 countries, and found that businesses with women in C-suite roles had higher net margins compared to companies that didn’t have any women leaders. 

Going one step further, University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management studied the impact that women executives had on Fortune 500 companies. Speaking to CNBC, assistant dean Joe Carella noted “that companies that have women in top management roles experience … ‘innovation intensity’ and produce more patents by an average of 20% more than teams with male leaders.” 

So, women-led companies aren’t just profitable, we see that they’re also innovative. Innovative companies tend to have an edge on the competition, as their groundbreaking products and services can create even more earnings over time. Then, as these women-led companies grow and prosper, the profits get shared: Employees may get a boost in wages and better benefits, and investors may also see increasing returns. Profit and innovation, resulting from strong female leadership, can lift up everyone.   

Interestingly, it’s not just the corporate world where women leaders create strong financial results. A 2011 study from the American Journal of Political Science shows that women in Congress bring in 9 percent more federal money to their districts, compared to men. Women also sponsor and co-sponsor more bills than their male colleagues, and these bills are more likely to address issues of poverty, access to education, and health. So, when women are elected to office, the people they represent can anticipate more resources and a more level playing field. 

And when the playing field is leveled, both at work and in government, opportunities can multiply. This means more people then gain access to more options, and can take more control over their futures.

Women Leaders Create Opportunities

When a woman leads a company, she typically oversees a diverse staff. Research from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School shows that organizations with women leaders are not only more inclusive than those run by men, they also show greater awareness of bias, are more empathetic, and have a greater appreciation for differences. 

Additionally, when businesses have female leaders, according to the Peterson Institute study, companies have less gender discrimination when they recruit new hires and promote existing staff. As a result, these more-inclusive companies tend to be better at keeping their employees, compared to less-inclusive companies. “Employee retention – and lack thereof – is tied to the level of inclusion employees feel in the workplace,” Betty Ng, founder and CEO of Inspiring Diversity, LLC, writes in CEO Today magazine. “Inclusivity walks the walk, going the vital extra steps where everyone has opportunity and voice and thus becomes fully engaged.” 

What does this mean in terms of opportunity? Well, let’s say a company commits to increasing their representation of women across the business. They change their hiring and promoting practices, leading to more roles and advancement possibilities for women. As higher numbers of women join both the staff and C-suite, they have more of a say in how the company is run. 

Because more perspectives are now being heard across the company, it changes how the team makes major decisions, and results in even more inclusive practices. The staff takes notice: As more people feel acknowledged, they feel more involved at work, and workplace satisfaction improves overall. Turnover decreases. The company’s reputation as a great place to work grows, and the candidate pool grows even more diverse. 

Then, as more people feel seen, heard, and valued, momentum builds across the business for even more positive change. Think of it as a virtuous cycle, not a vicious one, that can empower and create more opportunities for everyone. 

Finally, there’s an even greater benefit to having women leaders: the power of knowing what’s possible. 

Women Leaders Inspire Others

According to a recent survey from The Harris Poll, The Female Quotient, and Berlin Cameron, 71% of respondents said “when they see women in leadership positions, they’re encouraged to believe they can also have a leadership position.” It’s the idea of “if she can do it, I can do it, too,” and it can make all the difference in motivating someone who didn’t yet know what she was capable of. 

We’re already seeing more women seek leadership positions not just to become more visible and have more impact, but also to change the world: A record number of women were elected to Congress in 2018, and looking ahead to 2020, more women have announced they’re running for President than ever before. Women in Hollywood are pushing for change, with the 50/50 by 2020 program aiming to get equal gender representation across media, on screen and off, in the next year and beyond. The tech industry has also acknowledged it needs to do better in terms of gender equality, with both startups and established companies investing in more girls in STEM and committing to equal pay. 

This representation is important. In a 2012 study of girls in India, published in Science magazine, researchers found that the mere presence of female leaders encouraged young women to aspire for bigger and better things. But the girls didn’t just dream: The data showed their actual achievements (mainly in pursuing education and literacy) went up, too.  

When women have a real-world example to follow, they see that a pathway exists for their own goals and understand that they, too, can succeed. This is true whether they decide to start their own business, get their PhD, run for office, or aim for a promotion. After all, as Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, famously said, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” That’s why visibility and representation matter so much.   

So, let’s recap: We know that when women lead businesses, their companies become more profitable and innovative. When women are political leaders, access to funding increases, which can boost their region’s well-being. Putting everything together, when women leaders create an inclusive staff, their teams then feel seen, valued, and empowered to innovate and pursue opportunities. And we know that just having an example of a woman leader encourages people to dream bigger and aim higher.

The takeaway? We need more women leaders. Looking ahead, let’s see how all of us can support women and girls, so everyone can achieve. 

How You Can Support Women Leaders

Everyone can play a part in promoting gender equality. Here’s how:

We’ll say it again: When women lead, everyone succeeds. Here’s to a future where every woman and girl feels empowered to pursue her ambitions.