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  • Writer's pictureStefanie Mockler, M.A.

My TEDx Talk: The Business Case for Gender Diverse Leadership Teams

Early in my educational and career pursuits, I began receiving signals that others viewed my roles as a young mother and an ambitious career-driven woman as incompatible.

"Oh, are you sure you want to travel when you have a son at home?"

"You work full-time? Where does your son go after school?"

"Can you handle juggling all of these responsibilities?"

[Never mind the fact that I have a partner, my son's father, who has never received these questions despite working full-time outside of the home and traveling often...]

Notwithstanding these subtle messages, I knew — at my core — that being a young Mom, while certainly a unique challenge, had helped me accelerate my growth and development in many positive ways. I learned to prioritize what’s important, persist in the face of obstacles, have tough conversations, and importantly, put other people before myself. Interestingly enough, these skills also map directly onto what we often deem to be effective leadership behaviors.

Yet, when I applied for a rigorous graduate program, I was encouraged to hide my role as a mother (as well as the skills I developed along the way) because it could lead to me being perceived as less committed, less dependable, and ultimately, less capable of success compared to my childless counterparts. 

Ultimately, I listened and spoke only to my academic accomplishments and research experiences in my personal statement — leaving out what is arguably the single most important part of my life and certainly my most important development experience (raising my son).

This experience, as well as my exposure to organizational leaders and various cultures in my leadership assessment and coaching work, activated a passion in me to better understand how the subtle (and not-so-subtle) messages that women receive impact their career trajectories.

These messages and deeply ingrained stereotypes, among other systemic issues, continue to make it difficult for us to attain gender parity in leadership roles — and this problem persists despite the growing and clear evidence that gender diverse leadership teams help organizations and their people thrive.

For example, in their Diversity Matters Report, McKinsey and Company found that businesses with greater gender diversity are more profitable, have a stronger public image, and are able to foster and drive more innovative cultures. 

These assets, in turn, help organizations attract and retain top leadership talent and maintain their competitive advantage in an increasingly complex business context. 

It is clear that when women have a seat at the table where decisions are being made and cultures are being built, organizations and their employees flourish. 

Yet, very few organizations can capitalize on these benefits because of the continued dearth of women in senior-level leadership roles.

Let me be clear: This is NOT for a lack of ambitious, competent and driven women who aspire to leadership (like some might argue) — there’s a plethora of issues that make it immensely difficult for women to climb the corporate ladder. Chief among these issues are deeply ingrained and often unconscious biases and stereotypes that continue to drive our perceptions and decisions of what effective leadership “looks” like.

I describe this, as well as three actionable suggestions to drive change in this space, in my recent TEDx Talk, which you can view below.

As I say in the closing part of my talk: change is hard, change takes time, and importantly, change takes collective effort from people who are willing to do the work and drive others to do the same.

Awareness is not enough. What actions will you commit to taking today?

And please like, comment, and share — the more voices on this topic, the better! Let's drive change together.



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