The world celebrated International Women’s Day on Tuesday, 8 March. The theme of this year’s campaign? #PledgeForParity There is much to celebrate; women are increasingly contributing to social, economic, cultural and political achievement across the world. But gender parity progress continues to be far too slow. The World Economic Forum predicted last year that it will take until 2133 to achieve global gender parity. That means none of us will live to see our female descendants earn the same wage as men.

Women’s influence

It’s been widely reported recently that successful women leaders all possess a particular trait which their male counterparts just don’t have. This is why more women should be hired in these leadership roles. Women have the ability to influence a wide range of groups over which they have no direct authority. There are many reasons why women are better at this type of leadership. They are more likely to display empathy, they value reciprocal relationships, they are more cooperative and collaborative, and they are concerned about fairness.

Soft power

This mirrors the theory of political scientist and Harvard University professor Joseph S Nye who coined the terms “soft power” and “hard power”. He posits that soft power, which is fast becoming the more effective leadership style, is feminine – cooperative, participatory, integrative and aimed at co-opting the behaviour of followers. In comparison the patriarchal leadership style is more assertive, competitive, autocratic and focused on commanding others’ behaviour. Nye mentions a leadership change taking place even in the US Army where drillmasters do “less shouting at everyone” because millennials respond better to instructors who play “a more counselling type role”.

“Successful leadership may rest more upon soft power than in the past, but the prize will go to those with the contextual intelligence to manage the combination of soft and hard power into smart power,” Nye says.

Invest in women

But hiring women is about so much more than merely making an employment decision. It's also about changing communities, says Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"When you invest in women, you invest in the people who invest in everybody else. And if you gradually start to take action it won’t be long before you realise that investing in women is good for your mind, good for your soul, and good for your business."

I have been lucky to work with many strong, brave, intelligent and fair women during the course of my career. The woman who has had the most impact on my career is the immensely talented and moral Alide Dasnois, former editor of the Cape Times. It is my hope that I can begin to inspire others in the same way she has influenced me. This week I’ll have the experience of talking about the workplace, women and millennials at the Leading Women Summit event. These are the types of conversations I hope to have there.

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