Where are the female leaders?

In this time of so few women leading large organizations, sitting on boards (29% of FTSE 100 of board positions are held by women as of March 2018 according to gov.uk), sitting on the USA Supreme Court (as another white middle-aged male was appointed last month) and elsewhere under-represented, is it because they are still being shut out of those opportunities? Or is it something else?

Here is a list of some female leaders in the UK at the moment. Many of these leaders are the first females in these positions ever!

Theresa May – Prime Minister of the UK

Cressida Dick – Metropolitan Police Commissioner in London

Dany Cotton – Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade

Sara Thornton – Head of the National Police Chiefs Council of the UK

Nicola Sturgeon – First Minister of Scotland

Arlene Foster – Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland

Ruth Davidson – Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party

Leanne Wood – Leader of Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) until last month

Andria Zafirakou – Winner of this year’s “world’s best teacher” competition

Sarah Mullally – Bishop of London

Notice that the UK political landscape is dominated by females.

Here are 2 potential theories for the above occurrence:

  1. Women tend to go into public service occupations and hence rise in that sector rather than corporations or private sectors.
  2. Women tend to rise to leadership positions in bad times, when things are precarious, which seems an apt description for the present. A study by Ryan and Haslam in 2007 identified the Glass Cliff: women being appointed to leadership positions in FTSE organizations when the share prices in advance of their appointment were consistently poor (vs men who were appointed when the share prices in advance of their appointments were consistently stable.)

On a positive note, record numbers of females were elected yesterday in the USA mid-term elections, even the youngest women, the first Muslim women and the first Native American women were elected to Congress.

Whatever the reason for these women in senior leadership positions at the moment – let’s celebrate them, let’s help them succeed, let’s raise their profiles and let’s thank them for their service.