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Taking care of business: You can bank on women leading the way

Opinion

Hiring female leaders not only helps engender a workplace culture of equality, studies show it can also boost a business’s bottom line, writes Holly Tattersall

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Want to boost your company profits?

It’s simple, just hire a female CEO.

At least, that’s the finding of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, which recently conducted a survey and found that, on average, female CEOs boost a company’s market value by 5 per cent.

That means an additional $80 million for your average ASX200 company.

The latest findings are just one of many reports proving the business case for gender diversity; showing a direct causal relationship between female leadership and increased business performance.

But what about personal experience? Anecdotally, I’ve seen my fair share of female leaders – the talented and the terrible.

From my very first role in retail where my boss enforced unethical practices, through to the woman who changed my life as a friend and mentor (and who happened to be the CEO of a multimillion-dollar agency, later acquired by a global behemoth) I know that being a woman does not equal success, excellence or commercial rewards.

What I do know, and what I have seen, is that those women who are able to apply their commercial excellence while channelling their natural traits of empathy, emotional intelligence and a tendency towards collaboration, have created the most powerful and performance-driven teams on Earth.

Leaders like Melanie Perkins, Mandy Ross and Pip Marlow. You might not recognise these names, but you should. These are leaders who have put purpose, people and passion before profit – simultaneously ending up with profit as a happy consequence.

In my experience, I’ve also seen female leaders naturally win the war for talent with Millennials and young professionals pursuing collaborative, compassionate and purpose-driven management, often synonymous with female leadership traits.

Millennials are also willing to make great personal trade-offs to achieve all they can at work, seeing their career as an integrated part of life.

Women in the workforce understand this and will naturally lead with a more holistic, self-reflective approach and, as a result, are able to attract and retain the next generation of tech-savvy leaders.

Melanie Perkins, co-founder of Canva and now Australia’s third-richest woman is the daughter of an Australian-born teacher and a Malaysian engineer of Filipino and Sri Lankan heritage.

Not only has she individually onboarded every single one of their 700+ employee base, the Perkins family also jokes that she has a 100-point plan for changing the world, as she and her fiance (and co-founder) build a business to make the world a better place, contributing to overhauling the global health system as opposed to ‘hoard shit”.

Then there is Mandy Ross, one of Australia’s most successful technology leaders who brings an approachable (and at times introverted) personality to the table. Mandy helped to lead the merger of Tabcorp and Tatts as their chief information officer, creating an $11.3 billion industry giant. She is unapologetic about leading with her “female” traits, using her capabilities in relationship-building to better understand the other party and create win-win outcomes to keep collaboration and motivation at all-time highs.

For Pip Marlow, now CEO of Salesforce, an afternoon with the kids at soccer or netball training is an element of her life she refuses to hide, “It shows it’s not a dirty little secret that I have children that go to school,’’ she has been quoted as saying.

She balances the importance of being a good mum with the importance of being a good leader – trying to use her commute to and from work as a time to reflect on the importance of both.

This seems to be key to all successful female leaders I’ve encountered – the ability to compartmentalise and view their personal and professional roles with perspective.

All of these women are exceptional, high-profile leaders. And ultimately there are countless women without a public profile who are driving exceptional company performance, leaving their “command and control” peers in the dust. Leaders like my mother-in-law who describes and treats her employees as family, and the results show.

I believe the WGEA’s findings will see us re-evaluate what great leaders look like, providing space for authentic leadership and perhaps signalling that a leadership revolution is already underway.

Holly Tattersall is founder and CEO of Women in Digital. She writes occasionally for InQueensland

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