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Recent research suggests attitudes towards women in leadership are changing for the better, that women are perceived as being equally capable of leadership as are men, and that men and women possess most leadership skills at a comparable level. However, there are some significant differences between traditionally masculine and feminine characteristics that could benefit women very well, as soft skills become more important in the workplace.
How men and women differ
For instance, women are viewed as much more compassionate and organised than men, two qualities that fall into the realm of soft skills. Women also tend to be more communicative, a trait that dovetails very nicely with the increased communication channels technology offers. By leveraging both inherent traits and technical competencies (such as increased digital skills), women could accelerate their rise up the ranks, furthering their own careers while benefiting the organisations they work for.
However, the pervasive lack of soft skills training has created a stumbling block along the way for both women and men. Accenture’s “Listen, Learn, Lead” Global Research 2015 report reveals only 38% of survey respondents’ companies offer soft skills training, yet these same employees point to a lack of interpersonal and communications skills as key obstacles to successful leadership.
A focus on soft skills
Therefore, one of the most important things organisations can do is to both emphasise the value of soft skills as essential leadership competencies while at the same time creating training programmes and learning opportunities that support the development of these skills.
Technology, while it can be a distraction, can also be a communication facilitator. In fact, the same Accenture study shows that 58% of survey respondents believe technology is a communication enabler and increases leaders’ accessibility. We’ve already seen in my series on driving gender parity through digital fluency that women understand the value of increasing their technology skills. Companies who help their female employees blend technology literacy with both inherent and learned soft skills can give these women an additional boost up the corporate ladder.
To learn more about positioning women to lead, please see: