Agaton Strom for DLD

Closing the Female Leadership Gap

Despite multiple and long-term efforts by business, legislation and politics to balance out the gender gap in corporate leadership, the figures of women in C-suite positions in corporate as well as political Europe and America are disheartening. Neither diversity initiatives nor affirmative action have driven numbers of female executives upwards significantly while causing an array of controversial debates. When it comes to women entrepreneurs, figures of women starting their own business are going up year by year, there still is a measurable imbalance for women-led business, particularly when it comes to accessing funding. What are the actual barriers that prevent women from breaking the glass ceiling in the corporate world? Which kind of initiatives are proving to be effective and why? Why aren’t there more of them?
What can the corporate world learn from entrepreneurs and vice versa?
Do we need a more binding political framework to close the female leadership gap?

June Cohen (WaitWhat), Daniela Perdomo (goTenna), Gisbert Ruehl (Klöckner), Albert Wenger (USV) joined on stage of DLD New York to discuss “Closing the Female Leadership”, moderated by Nikki Waller (The Wall Street Journal). All panalists agree that change is happening, but more has to be done. June Cohen stressed that there is not only a female leadership gap, but also a visibility gap. Where many might think this is a problem, mainly because women are denied the spotlight or there are not enough women in leading positions Cohen disagrees and gave an example why: “I invited 6 men and 6 women to speak. 6 men said yes and 6 women said no. Not for family or confidence reasons but different leadership values. It is important to women to be in the office and with their team, where it is important to men to be out there. I want more women to say yes.”

Discussing the question, why not more women are hired for leading positions Gisbert Ruehl says “Men like to hire men, they like to hire more of themselves.” Albert Wenger adds that all supervisory boards are still predominantly male. Nikki Waller also sees the problem in the way women and men approach their career: “When a woman reads a job description with 10 bullet points and she meets 9 of them, the thinks No If a man only meets 3 of them, he is like Yeah.“ Changing this requires a lot of talking and making aware of this problem. It also goes back to the difference between men and women, believes Ruehl: “Women often have to change to have a career in a man driven business world. I think it is important to make sure, they don’t have to. It is important to keep their strengths.”

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