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Why do we need more women in top management positions?

A powerful demonstration from our expert Kathleen Rehbein, based on her 18 years of experience in sustainable HR strategies in the logistics sector.
Kathleen Rehbein by Kathleen Rehbein 08/03/2022
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What I like most about International Women’s Day is that it is the one day of the year when we, as a society, sit back and take stock of the progress women have made. We celebrate their achievements, we reflect on the role (or often, roles) that they play in the world and we contemplate the road ahead. After all, while it is undeniable that women have come a long way, we have yet to achieve a stable gender balance across countries, across sectors and across industries.

 

Where are all the women in top management positions?

When I look back on my 18-year career in Human Resources, I recognize that a noteworthy progress has been made ౼ but I also know that true gender equality is still at stake today.

In Europe, women are sorely underrepresented in top management positions ౼ an imbalance that is even more pronounced in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as transport and logistics. It is clear that this has nothing to do with a lack of competence. In fact, studies show that women perform better than men in 17 out of 19 leadership competencies, particularly with tasks that involve taking initiative, being resilient, seeking self-development, being results-oriented or displaying integrity and honesty.

Women clearly have what it takes to be excellent managers and leaders. So why is there such an imbalance at the top? I think this can be explained once we acknowledge that there is a societal phenomenon occurring right now. Women are not only employees, managers or executives, they also play a crucial role in society at large. Typically, childcare and eldercare responsibilities ౼ and the “mental load” that goes along with those duties ౼ tend to be shouldered largely by women. This incredible responsibility is often not adequately taken into account in the professional realm ౼ on the contrary, around the world, women repeatedly experience bias and even consequences as a result.

At the same time, women are frequently their own worst critics. For example, when it comes to self-assessments, women generally perform poorly compared to their male colleagues ౼ especially younger women under 25 years of age. And while women tend to be more critical of their performance, men tend to be overconfident and believe themselves to be more competent than they actually are, which fuels the unconscious bias already present in hiring and promoting situations. With all of these factors at work, it’s no wonder why there are fewer women in management positions today.

 

Creating real gender parity in leadership positions

Acknowledging the imbalance is an essential first step, but it is also important for companies to recognize that diverse teams are more successful than homogeneous ones. Studies show that it pays to be gender-equitable and diverse. Women have different, mostly complementary skills compared to their male colleagues. When both genders are equally represented, decisions are more balanced, perspectives are more diverse ౼ in short, diversity broadens possibilities and gives businesses a solid foundation and fertile ground for sustainable growth.

I truly believe that the only way to bring more women into management positions is to fundamentally change the corporate culture, which means doing more than simply setting up programs that “look good.”

Employers obviously have a critical role to play in bolstering gender diversity in the workplace. It is up to them to present women with the same opportunities as their male colleagues and to consider their concerns in the workplace. They need to:

 

  • Promote women into management positions,
  • Analyze and standardize maternity leave benefits,
  • Level out potential pay gaps,
  • Create leadership and mentoring programs for women,
  • Encourage female representation in traditionally male-dominated industries
  • Consider gender balance in recruitment practices.

 

Giving women a voice

From a human resources point of view, it is impossible for me to imagine our everyday working life and our decisions without women. Their qualities and attributes are central to employee relations and business success.

At GEODIS, we are working towards a world where women are equal leaders in business. To get there, it is crucial that their voices be heard. Our “GEODIS Women’s Network” works on promoting inclusion, decreasing professional gender disparity and enhancing the work and private life balance both internally and externally. On the one hand, our regional internal women's development project "Ladies First!" aims to develop and promote women in leadership positions through individual coaching and training. On the other hand, our female colleagues are encouraged to position themselves in the job through the promotion of networking. Together, these programs fuel our overarching goal of strengthening the female workforce and encouraging women to step into managerial roles and to keep them.

I think that true gender balance celebrates the complementary skills and talents of women and men. With that in mind, we must focus on driving inclusive solutions not only for a better gender balance but for sustainable growth. As I look to the future, I envision a "gender-equal world", a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

I think this world is within reach, don’t you?

 

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Author
Kathleen
Rehbein
Director Human Resources, North East and Central Europe, GEODIS
Kathleen Rehbein is a Senior Expert on Human Resources and Labour law. She is responsible for sustainable HR strategies and concepts in the North East and Central Europe at GEODIS. Kathleen has been with GEODIS for 18 years and held different roles in the field of HR.

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