Susan Madsen—“Women are Better Leaders”

MAY-JUNE 2017|BY ANTHE MITRAKOS
It may be 2017, but women in business still have a long way to go in terms of gaining the acknowledgement they deserve in the workforce says Dr. Susan Madsen, a management, leadership and ethics professor at Utah Valley University.

Dr. Madsen was guest speaker at the 8th Women Leader Luncheon hosted by the Women in Business (WIB) Committee of the Chamber April 3rd at the King George Hotel.

Her presentation touched on building, bridging and blazing pathways for women in leadership. She challenged the audience to help themselves and other women acknowledge their ability to lead, calling upon male-dominated institutions and businesses to understand the advantage of gender balance in the workforce.

Better financial results, faster debt reduction, improved corporate governance, lower corporate fraud, a smaller gender pay gap and higher customer satisfaction are just some of the benefits of having women in senior management roles, Dr. Madsen said.

Despite women’s competitive edge in management and leadership, however, their presence in executive roles globally continues to be overshadowed by that of men. By the end of 2015, women represenated 9.9% of business unit heads—a traditional launchpad to senior roles and boardroom positions—versus 8.5% in 2014, according to a report by financial service provider Credit Suisse. With only one in ten women heading these business units, however, the current rate of progress would achieve gender parity by 2070, the report states.

Social norms, Dr. Madsen said, are a reason women tend to “step back instead of lean forward” when it comes to facing their male counterparts all throughout their career. Revealing both internal and external challenges women face regarding leadership roles, Dr. Madsen argued that it is “unacceptable for women not to help women,” stating that change will only come through raising awareness and being part of a solution as individuals.

Citing a number of statistical research findings from various sources, Dr. Madsen put the psychology of women in business into perspective. When men are 50 to 60 percent qualified for a position, she noted, they pursue it with confidence, whereas women tend to wait until they have fulfilled 90 to 100 percent of job qualifications before they even consider sending in an application.

Furthermore, the definition and measure of success differ between men and women. Men, she said, tend to view success by reaching numbers and acquiring titles in their business life, less afraid to fail and move on. Whereas women, who possess a greater fear of failure and are naturally “more nurturing…more creative…with more collective intelligence,” take a holistic approach to success, weighing their accomplishments in both work and non-work related fields.

“Women don’t have as strong of a leadership identity as men do,” she said. “Women do not understand how amazing they are…we have no self compassion.”

Interestingly, Dr. Madsen noted in her presentation that the greatest inscrease in female entrepreneurship globally for 2014 to 2015 occured in the Czech Republic, Greece and Jamaica. Meanwhile, a 2016 World Economic Forum gender gap report ranked Greece 92nd out of 144 countries assessed for their progress in addressing gender disparity, with Iceland coming in first and Yemen last.

Raised in a family of six brothers, Professor Madsen is an advocate for women in business, and not only in a corporate setting. A mother of four children, she acknowledged the life lessons and leadership skills raising children, “even one child,” offer a woman.

“We can change families, schools, businesses, communities, countries and the world,” she said, addressing the ladies in attendance, and ended her speech with an inspirational “you are the ones you’ve been waiting for.”

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