COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | KATIE YEE

Is society demanding more women leaders?

With female executives stepping up and making their voices heard, women now have many more role models to emulate. Women such as Mary Barra of General Motors, Sheryl Sandberg of Google and Virginia Rometty of IBM are becoming household names and furthering the debate of the female role in corporate America.

Government is also seeing an influx of women in high places. German chancellor Angela Merkel leads a long list of women both abroad and in the United States who hold high positions. What is prompting this increase of women in leadership roles, and how can women sustain this trend?

Education

More women than men are seeking higher education, and the gender gap in college degrees is widening quickly. The trend started in 1978, when for the first time, more women than men earned associate’s degrees. Over time, this trend was replicated for bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

By 2006, female domination of college degrees at every level was complete, with more women than men earning doctoral degrees. In 2009, there were 25 percent more female college graduates than male. For the graduating class of 2013, the Department of Education estimated that overall, 140 women graduated with a college degree at some level for every 100 men.

Emotional intelligence

Do women’s natural traits and tendencies better position them for the leadership roles of today and tomorrow? As the working environment evolves from the compartmentalization of talent to a team-based, collaborative approach, women’s strengths seemingly tee them up for leadership roles.

According to a survey of more than 600 employees by Lee Hecht Harrison, a talent mobility consulting firm, empathy among managers in the workplace today is in short supply. Empathy requires that an individual be honest, authentic and present, while allowing themselves to be vulnerable. In a stressful situation, women become more open to others and empathetic, while men become more self-centered, suggests a new study published in the Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology.

A 2013 white paper published by CREW Network, “The Evolution of Women in Leadership: An Analysis of Effective Leadership Skills,” cites the 2008 study by McKinsey & Company, “Women Matter 2: Female Leadership a Competitive Edge for the Future,” offering insights into leadership behaviors that are critical to addressing future challenges.

The four most critical behaviors were intellectual stimulation, inspiration, participative decision making, and expectation and reward. Of these four behaviors, women demonstrated three of them more often than men: inspiration, participative decision making, and expectation and reward.

Training leaders

While women’s inherent talents may naturally position them as leaders in our evolving society, teaching women how to lead is still important. With the demand for women leaders on the rise, the commercial real estate industry is embracing the need for education and is offering innovative programs specifically designed for women.

CREW Network, the premier national business networking organization dedicated to advancing the achievements of women in commercial real estate, hosts an executive mentoring program called Bridging the C-Suite Gap. This nine-month program is designed for CREW Network members who have both the interest and potential to advance to senior executive positions.

The program provides access to executive-level mentors and other resources to support participants' leadership development and career advancement. Included in the program is a “360-degree leadership skills assessment to enhance self-awareness and support the creation of a focused, effective executive development plan.” More information is available at www.crewnetwork.org.

The San Diego chapter of CREW recently hosted a members event, “The Path to Leadership: San Diego Women Share the Secrets to Their Success.” Women in high-level roles in architecture, brokerage, law, accounting and construction shared their strategies for ascent in their industries. The program offered women aspiring to leadership roles the opportunity to learn firsthand what it takes to make it to the top.

With more women are attending and graduating from college than ever before, CREW has adopting a new program, UCREW, to introduce female college students to career opportunities in commercial real estate. At the first UCREW event in San Diego, 20 students met with local real estate leaders who introduced them to various paths available to them.

Whether it be education, inherent qualities, specialized training or a combination, women are meeting the leadership demands of the 21st century in record numbers. While the road to get there has not been easy, the unprecedented strides women are making reflect the evolution of the workplace as well as women themselves.


Yee is a regional marketing manager at Fuscoe Engineering, a civil engineering firm in San Diego. She is secretary to the board of directors of CREW San Diego.

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