High Heels: A Powerful Symbol in the Business World

by Debora McLaughlin
The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group

Four reasons why women will lead the business world in the 21st century

When you let women be women in the business world, they do better. That’s according to a recent report from the Harvard Business Review, which makes the case that traditional thinking – that women should be treated no differently than men in corporate settings – is simply flawed and regressive.

A major point the post makes is that only about 20 percent of businesswomen make partner. By expecting from women what you would expect from men, the corporate world is consciously and unconsciously excluding female leadership. That’s a very bad thing, according to many. For example, Kevin O'Leary of “Shark Tank” fame says that of his 27 companies, only the ones with female CEOS make him money.

Women are good for business, so it follows that what’s good for your best women will be good for your bottom line. I’ve long advocated this position, and that symbols of female business identity like high heels are signs of a businesswoman’s ability to elevate business results, consistently providing a better return for stakeholders. Here are a few reasons why women will be essential for leading businesses into a new paradigm this century.

  • The old way doesn’t work. Since 1955, more than 90 percent of the companies on the Fortune 500 list have gone bankrupt, shrunk in size, become inconsequential, been mopped up by their rivals or closed their doors. Sixty percent of CEOs think their current business model is only sustainable for another three years. Sticking too closely to your old guns, including discouraging a woman’s nature in the corporate world, will likely involve your company in that 90-plus percent failure rate.
  • The business world has already changed. While technology continues to revolutionize how we do business, it has also changed the workforce. Today’s employees are smarter, more innovative, more creative and full of potential – and it’s not only due to technology. As Generations X and Y emerge as tomorrow’s leaders, Millennials are proving to be very resourceful workers. Old models like “command-and-control” don’t fit with a company’s most precious resource, its people.
  • Women are more social and excel in collaboration. We shouldn’t generalize to strictly regarding gender norms. However, it’s probably fair to say that women are more nurturing for in-group members. Much of the traditional management method centralized authority; a woman’s leadership is more prone to sharing influence and, perhaps, fostering a creative culture of collaboration. Of course, this is not a strict gender rule. But I think it’s the experience of many that women are, in the aggregate, more nurturing.
  • Momentum will continue to build for women leadership. Momentum tends to build upon itself, and that includes social change. While that change has been slower in the corporate world, we’re already seeing signs and opinions of change, as exemplified by Kevin O’Leary.

More importantly, if the Harvard Business Review’s post is an indicator, women in business will feel more comfortable being themselves in a professional environment. Unlocking those invisible shackles from a woman’s high heels will be a game-changer. iBi

Debora McLaughlin is CEO of The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group, a certified executive coach, and author of The Renegade Leader: 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits and Running in High Heels: How to Lead with Influence, Impact & Ingenuity. For more information, visit TheRenegadeLeader.com.