Women in leadership positions

How does a woman qualify for a leadership position and what does she have to look out for? These are questions that some women ask themselves. Especially if they want to have children. We did some research to find out what needs to change and asked female managers for their opinion.

Our social system certainly contributes to this gender issue. It is assumed that women will have children sooner or later and thus take a career break. As a result, many companies see this as a business risk. Men, on the other hand, will always be able to work full time. People with a linear career path without interruptions are currently clearly preferred. Nevertheless, there are now more and more opportunities for women who, for example, want to return to their full-time jobs earlier. There is also a more tolerant image in companies nowadays. Companies that allow their female employees to build up a professional career at the same time as having a family will have clear advantages in the labour market. For companies, qualified women offer great potential.

Fortunately, one notices that more and more men are taking care of housework and childcare. Unfortunately, the gender differences nevertheless remain. Such thinking is still very real and widespread in Switzerland. Switzerland also lags behind in international comparison. When Swiss women were given the right to vote in 1971, Sweden had a system at the same time that allowed parents to take leave after giving birth and work part-time until their children were twelve years old. In Sweden, parents can divide the duration of parental leave between themselves, thus ensuring equality. Switzerland would certainly need to catch up here, considering that paid maternity leave has only existed since 2005.

The honest opinion of leaders

We got to talk to five women in leadership positions. We wanted to know what are the most important competences employers want to see in a candidate for a leadership position.

“Gender doesn’t matter, whether it’s a male or female person who wants to be in leadership. The most important thing is that this person is up to the task and can lead well. Other competences are, for example, judgement in the composition of the team, judgement in strategic development, judgement in the daily work. Of course, the ability to motivate and form teams is also crucial. The ability to get along and collaborate with other groups is the linchpin of a leader.”
The CMO of a print industry

“The ability to network and collaborate is important. If this is not yet given, it should be built and strengthened. Be it female professionals or male, the mindset has to be right: Openness, willingness to change and flexibility. This will also make it easier to get to the top.
The CFO from an energy and e-mobility solutions provider

“Good leadership skills and a flair for managing people are important, especially for attracting, retaining and developing talent. In addition to these soft skills, strong business acumen is also important. The candidate must have short and long-term strategic thinking and vision, and be able to move decisively forward while engaging and motivating staff. It is important to provide guidance, but at the same time give individuals enough room for their own development.”
The vice-president of a pharmaceutical company

How important is networking ability for achieving a leadership position?

“The ability to network is essential. You can very rarely be successful in a company if you only think about yourself and are a loner. Successful networking starts internally at the company. You have to be able to build a good rapport with all parties, from the front desk to the board of directors. Especially for people who are looking for a job, networking is helpful, but even when you are on the job, it is beneficial to be able to exchange ideas with other experts from other companies and also industries. However, networking alone is not enough, you need to cultivate these acquaintances to create mutual value. Networking is an important and meaningful foundation for men’s and women’s leadership.”
The CFO from an energy and e-mobility solutions provider.

“Networking is also beneficial for employers. Being on corporate networks such as LinkedIn helps with talent acquisition and building relationships beyond one’s colleagues.”
The vice-president of a pharmaceutical company

To what extent is the ability to “sell” oneself important in order to reach a leadership position?

“A person does not stand out per se. However, visibility can be developed step by step. You need a communication strategy to be able to achieve concrete goals. The professional focus on which you have built up expert knowledge is the lever for success”.

How well prepared should one be for the future competences “Digital Savviness”, “Inner Strength”, “Ecosystem Management”, “Problem Solving” and “Enterprising Mindset”?

Digitalisation is a tool and you should understand how it can simplify your life in day-to-day business. As a leader, it is important to consider what is happening in the world and how relevant it is for you. Most of our respondents also get their knowledge by reading a lot. Our digital world means that requirements change quickly, which is why lifelong learning has become even more important. A broad background knowledge, constant exchange and further education are important to stay up to date and to be able to meet the constantly changing challenges.
Further education would certainly be useful, but there is usually not enough time for that. If a woman has a family, works as a manager and is also doing further training, then time management becomes a big challenge.

How has the concept of leadership changed in recent years? What is still to come?

“Typical hierarchical leadership is old news. It still needs a decision-maker, but at the core you should see yourself as a team. This concept of leadership has also changed due to the COVID pandemic: less control and more work in virtual teams. Diversity is highly in vogue. Diverse teams – in every sense – are important and perform better. This has been proven by studies. We should focus on strong teams rather than individual performers. We also need to get used to much higher turnover. Very few workers will stay with the same company for 30 years. But this is also an opportunity for talent that will be an asset to the teams”.
The CFO from an energy and e-mobility solutions provider

“Leadership is very personal and has character. Leadership styles are changing but remain the same at the core. If I was negative, I would say it hasn’t changed much. It is important that teams are given the most freedom possible so that diversity of minds can flourish.”
The Head of Audit of an insurance company

Thanks to Corona? Kind of

Families can benefit from the pandemic. Companies are currently challenged and must be able to offer flexible working due to home office commitments or covid illnesses. Thanks to such restructuring, new ways of working are emerging that would not have been possible before Corona. With this new flexibility, the gender gap regarding career and family can also change significantly.

To give you a basis for the next stage, we offer a workshop. In this workshop you will get an overview of your competences and drivers, create a career plan as well as a communication strategy.

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