The inspiration, innovation and impact of a woman can be found in every touch point when it comes to the world of work – be it in an entrepreneurial field, corporate world, homemaking, business ownership, association, group or the world’s largest organisation. Directly, it is felt through their contribution, their efforts, their guidance, their nurturing, and all the natural and innate gifts that they have. Indirectly, it is felt through the people they support, be it their husbands, their children, and many others. A number of studies have been done about women in the workplace which concluded that women tend to have the innate ability to lead in the workplace with an edge over men in a lot of areas of leadership.
Based on the above research and many others, women have been seen to have all the characteristics and for this reason, we know that when these soft skills are developed and used in the workplace, women become better leaders. Technical skills, experience and knowledge are fundamental to success. However, many more organisations are beginning to recognise soft skills as an important component without which, the success they seek cannot be a complete one.
Industries which used to be male-dominated are seeing more and more women join them. Women are being encouraged to join the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) to create a balance in the ratio of men to women. Women who accepted the challenge of venturing into such industries are taking up leadership roles in various organisations. Patricia Obo-Nai is a Ghanaian female engineer, who joined Vodafone in 2011 as a Chief Technology Officer and a member of the executive committee. Through her impact, she was appointed Director of Fixed Business and Customer Operations and is now the Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Ghana.
Whilst many young boys are socialised to channel their energies into contact sports, most young girls are taught to nurture and care for others. In the workplace, many women continue to engage this nature, making them succeed more at their work. Folorunsho Alakija, a businesswoman and philanthropist started her career as a secretary for the now-defunct Merchant Bank of Nigeria. She has expressed on numerous platforms, her desire to help others, whilst finding a balance with her role as a wife, mother, and grandmother. She took a leap into the unknown when she quit her job in the 80s to study fashion designing in England. Returning to her native country a few years later, she set up Supreme Stitches, a fashion label that catered for elite Nigerian women, including the wife of former Nigerian president Ibrahim Babangida. Folorunsho Alakija is the National President of Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria. She is also the Vice Chair at Famfa Oil and Gas and has investments in real estate.
According to the United States of America’s Department of labour, soft skills are now rated as “even more important to work readiness.” Women have been proven to hold a key advantage in these soft skills – a study by global consulting firm Hay Group found that women outperform men in 11 of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies. Richard E. Boyatzis, Ph.D, one of the study’s developers and co-owners states that, “If more men acted like women in employing their emotional and social competencies, they would be substantially and distinctly more effective in their work.”
In the past few weeks, the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation has been the subject of many conversations, discussions and news in general. Ngozi’s appointment makes her the first female and first African to hold this office; an achievement which can be attributed to her many years of hard work as well as her impact and influence in previous leadership roles.
Many organisations have over the years become increasingly aware of the influence of women leaders in workspaces. From increasing productivity and enhancing collaboration, to inspiring organisational dedication and decreasing employees suffering exhaustion, the influence of female leaders in workspaces is well-documented. Thus, leadership roles and opportunities which used to be unattainable by women have now been opened up to all, regardless of gender.
Kamala Devi Harris made history by her appointment as Vice President of United States of America, after a lifetime of public service. Being the first female, first African-American and first Asian-American to hold the nation’s second highest office, Vice President Harris’s appointment was met with much excitement worldwide. In her acceptance speech, she honoured the women who she said “paved the way” and made that moment possible. She added, “I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision, to see what can be, unburdened by what has been… I stand on their shoulders.” She also acknowledged the contributions of Black women, adding that they are “leaders who are “too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy”. Harris went on to add that “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
The Credit Suisse Research Institute discovered that companies with one or more women on the Board delivered higher average returns on equity and better average growth. Managing Director of Absa bank Ghana Limited, Abena Osei-Poku was adjudged 2019 outstanding CEO of the year by Entrepreneurs Foundation of Ghana (EFG) during its 2020 Ghana Entrepreneurs and Corporate Executives Awards. The award is in recognition of her inspiring achievements in demonstrating exemplary corporate leadership, integrity, sustained business growth and innovation as the Managing Director of Absa Bank Ghana. In her term of office she has overseen the successful and smooth transition of Barclays Bank Ghana to Absa Bank Ghana, a member of the Absa group.
Another study on female representation in top management found that companies that prioritised innovation saw greater gains when women were part of the top leadership ranks. Njeri Rionge is for instance one of Africa’s leading entrepreneurs and one of the few women pioneers in the ICT sector on the African continent. She co-founded internet service provider Wananchi Online that has since been transformed into Wananchi Group Holdings – one of East Africa’s leading providers of pay-tv, broadband internet and VolP services. Njeri is celebrated as East Africa’s serial entrepreneur because she founded Wananchi Online, Wananchi Group Holdings, Ignite Consulting, Insite Limited, Business Lounge and Njeri Rionge Business Consulting Inc.
Engaging a supportive management style, a cooperative problem-solving approach, professionalism, and collaboration, women achieve qualitative cultural gains and win quantitative business success alike. By complementing their hard or technical abilities with soft skills, female leaders bring more innovation to the organisation itself and drive sustainable growth.
In the face of the on-going pandemic, Jacinda Ardern, 40th and current prime minister of New Zealand has been acknowledged as one of the world leaders who have effectively managed the health crisis in her country with measures she put in place. Unrestrained by pregnancy and subsequently mothering a young child whilst in office, Jacinda explains that for her, her position as Prime Minister, “…is no different to the woman who works three jobs, or who might be in a position where they are juggling lots of responsibilities.”
However, other research also state that although women largely possess soft skills, many more who could have impacted their workspace do not demonstrate or bring out those soft skills that actually make them leaders. To be able to influence your workspace, you need to identify your key strengths and project them.
Here are a few thoughts on how to make impact and have influence in your sphere as leader:
Listen as a leader. Be attentive but relaxed, keep an open mind, try not to interrupt and do not impose your “solutions”. Make a conscious effort to work at it if you fall short in this area. Mastering the art of listening is a very important virtue of every true leader. Being a careful, thoughtful listener allows you to become a speaker of carefully chosen words, a characteristic of effective communication, and a mark of leadership with purpose.
One attribute of a leader is the ability to keep abreast of the times. Learn beyond your field of expertise; learn new trends, new technology, and anything that will keep you relevant. This will help you understand a constantly changing world and how to impact it effectively. Leaders who learn are excelling in their careers even in this time of COVID-19 where economies are declining globally. To be a leader you need to be dynamic and you must learn, learn, and keep learning.
- LET GO
In leadership you are going to keep experiencing negative attitudes, perception and misjudgment especially as a woman. The key to overcome these hurdles is to let go as soon as they come your way. Take out the lessons and throw out the negatives-be it hurt, pain, or disappointment. The human nature is geared towards the negative ever since the fall of man. That is why for instance in a day, a person can receive ninety-nine (99) compliments but one (1) negative word about them, makes them forget about the ninety-nine good things said. People are more inclined to believe negative perceptions. Treat these as feed forward. You must be deliberate and intentional about not losing focus. Work on doing better and being better, and lead you to greater heights.
Live with purpose and a mindset of being a better version of you each day. You may have multiple failures but these can be translated into strengths and used to your advantage. You do not start from scratch when you fail; rather you start from the experience you have learnt from that failure. You are unique and have all that you need to succeed so dream big and live to impact your world.
To demonstrate personal impact and influence, women need to continue to achieve a firm balance between Confidence and Competence, believing in themselves as leaders. Remember to Listen, Learn, Let go and Live!
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Soft Skills Expert, Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.