Gender equality and diversity have been on the agenda of the corporate world for at least three decades now, and in a week where we have celebrated Women's International Day, we want to dedicate this Sunday's message to the theme.

The importance of having more women in top executive positions cannot be overstated today, where women are still underrepresented in top leadership positions, particularly in the corporate world. Research shows that the lack of diversity in leadership positions limits the talent pool and hinders the potential for innovation and growth. It also shows that gender-diverse teams make better decisions than those that are not diverse since it brings different perspectives, experiences, and skill sets to the table.

We have asked four Portuguese CEOs to make a brief statement on how they see the role of women in leadership. I really enjoyed reading them, and I hope you do as well.

 – Inês Lima, CEO McDonald's Portugal

New business realities are creating the need for a new, more inclusive and transparent leadership model. In my view, women tend to have many qualities related to this transformational leadership: collaboration, empathy and pragmatism. In addition, women bring to the leadership different perspectives, skills and experience. In general, women attach more importance to interpersonal skills and are more understanding of the importance of well-being.

However, women need support to develop their careers. Since I joined McDonald's Portugal 9 years ago, I have experienced a positive and favourable environment for women's leaders to advance. We currently have a balanced leadership team (50%-50%), and I believe this allows for better decisions, fosters innovation, and makes teams feel more motivated and committed.

It is important to celebrate and recognize the progress made and commit to the journey, embracing gender equity in business and society in the coming years. Both men and women should aim to achieve the perfect balance between both sides. A successful leader is one that works to be surrounded by the skills that he is missing.

– Paula Gomes Freire, CEO VdA

I am not totally convinced that the style of leadership is determined by gender, but I truly believe that one's core values and who we are as a whole – gender included – has a significant impact on how leadership is exercised.

 I can, therefore, perfectly understand that certain generalizations around female leadership are very much determined by the traits and characteristics we typically associate with women – emotional intelligence, empathy, intuition – but it is not proven that these are exclusively feminine traits and that as such, male leadership cannot be emotionally intelligent, empathetic and intuitive.

More than a question of style or leadership traits, what I believe stands out as differentiating female leadership is actually related to the role women play in society and within the family –the balancing act (that of finding the right balance between professional achievement and all those other areas of personal fulfilment that all leaders – men or women – are confronted with) is, generally, more demanding for women.

 – Sandra Santos, CEO BA Glass

What is the meaning of leadership? There are no female or male leaders. Just leaders! We see different leadership styles, ways, and models. They are tightly connected to the leader's personality, the context where they act, and the moment. There is no gender in leadership. Moreover, leading is all about being in others' shoes and understanding what excites them to the point of wanting to be led by a specific leader. Leading is an act of creating an impact on others or something. It is the act of inspiring other people to a point they end up reaching an extraordinary (unexpected) result.

Female leaders are not more or less capable than male leaders. We, women that lead, are not more or less resilient. We have a different brain; more emotional many say. But we have the same aims. The same willingness to transform and create, to build and develop teams and people, and to deliver results. Leadership is not a position. It is a privilege that must be conquered, nurtured, developed, and deserved! "Why should anyone be led by you?" is the title of a book to return, always.

– Silvia Barata, CEO Bp Portugal

I do genuinely believe that a more balanced female leadership gender is good for the business, is good for society, and is good for everyone.

 Why? Because it tends to be much more collaborative, inclusive, it evidences different views, beliefs, experiences, styles, and approaches, which, at the end of the day, means that decisions are taken under a much solid & innovative ground.

As Golda Meir once said, "Whether women are better than men, I cannot say – but I can say they are certainly no worse". So let me share with you 3 important messages:

When we compare the same leadership contexts, women and men do not differ in regard to their leadership efficiency.
Women tend to underestimate their value and automatically diminish their self-rating. Please don't! Be bold and authentic, set your goals high and go after them!
There is a famous quote which reads, "when you reach the top, send the elevator back down for the others". This generosity must be present if we really want to help others to grow and achieve speedier gender parity.

Different but all clear views on the role of women in leadership positions. I am strongly convinced that companies committed to gender diversity in their leadership teams are not only more socially responsible but they are also more likely to be successful in the long run. 

Have a great and impactful week!

Nuno Moreira da Cruz
Executive Director at the Center for Responsible Business & Leadership

This article refers to edition #181 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter and covers SDG 5 and 10. 
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