Half of the people living in this world are female. You’d expect that half of the thought leaders who inspire us would be women, too. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Research by Instant Offices shows that 6 out of every 10 people worldwide who describe themselves as a thought leader on LinkedIn are male. In virtually every country, more men consider themselves thought leaders than women.
This would explain why in my four years at university I never once had a female speaker come to my campus. They were all old white men who I couldn’t relate to in the slightest!
There is an urgent call for more female thought leaders around the world as we embrace human leadership. We have come a long way from the first time women were able to cast a vote, but there is still so much more to be done in making sure women’s voices are heard and valued.
The Challenges Being Faced by Women in Becoming Thought Leaders
Last year, the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies hit an all-time record with 37 of the companies being led by women. While an increasing number of women are taking on leadership roles, pursuing transformation projects, starting companies, innovating and helping build their countries’ political and social agendas, what they do can still go without the same recognition that men receive.
The world hasn’t fully overcome historical and social constructs and is still held back by old customs and habits. As a result, it’s more difficult for women to overcome those barriers on their journey to becoming thought leaders. Just because of our gender, men still don’t take women as seriously despite the fact that women are exactly what the world needs more of in thought leadership.
On top of that, as women, we still face pressures associated with our physical appearance and how we are perceived as others. There are already so many male leaders being supported, heard and followed in large numbers, but it isn’t the case when it comes to women. Men can wear the same suit with a different shirt every day and it will go unnoticed. But for women, people hypercriticize our bodies, makeup, skin, hair and clothing. The list goes on.
If you are a woman, it takes more work to become a thought leader. Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, is one of the most famous female thought leaders… but her story isn’t an overnight success. To earn her place as a thought leader, she first wrote a number of articles, gave motivational TED talks, authored a book and launched a nonprofit program. While these feats seem like they could be a “normal” path for some, it’s increasingly difficult for women to achieve these things due to the societal pressures and criticism that we face daily.
Our World NEEDS More Female Thought Leaders
When women speak out, share their stories and talk about where they come from and why they are doing what they are doing, it resonates with other women and can inspire others to do the same. Everybody has their own story. By sharing both your hard times and successes alike, you can make a difference in someone else’s life and motivate them to follow in your footsteps.
As women, we want to show other women and young girls what’s possible, and that women have a lot to offer. A woman is a leader by design. We don’t have to settle for anything less. We don’t want to play small, and we don’t have to. There is no shortage of inspiring stories from women, but women need to speak up for those inspiring messages to be heard on a larger scale.
We don’t want to live in a world where it is dominated by one perspective—the male perspective. We need to have both male and female counterparts working together. Women aren’t the only ones who can benefit from female thought leaders.
According to a Harvard Business article, studies reveal that despite the majority of leaders in organizations being men, it is actually women who have what it takes to effectively lead. This means that instead of telling female executives to act more like men to get ahead, society as a whole would benefit more when male leaders try to emulate women more. One of the most valuable lessons men can learn from women is how to become a human leader. To put people first. To practice empathy. To be humble. To elevate others.
The Time Is Now…
For more female leaders to be heard, supported and followed. You don’t have to be a Sheryl Sandberg to be a female thought leader. Anyone with expertise on a particular subject, insight and a valuable perspective can be one in their industry.
Many women have golden nuggets of wisdom in their stories that just needed to be discovered. Their messages need to be shared clearly and powerfully to inspire others. We need more female role models for other women and young girls. We can create more human work environments and cultures when we tap into our human leadership skills like empathy, kindness and compassion. But we have to go on this journey together—men and women embracing the Human Era.
A friend and ally who also believes there should be more female thought leaders in our world is Lee Prosenjak, an Igniter with Simon Sinek, an Operator for Valentines Resort, a partner at Hesse Partners, and a coach for LynchPyn.
This week on the UNprofessional podcast, Lee and I will share with you a conversation that taps into the power of human leadership, why the world needs more female thought leaders and how to lead with empathy over ego.
If you haven’t already, join the UNprofessional community and hear from human-centric leaders about their journeys and how they’re creating more purpose, passion and fulfillment in their lives.
As we continue on our journey to make the world more human, know that I am grateful to you and your support.
In love and respect,