Female managers – women power to overcome a crisis

Recent studies show that women prosper in their roles – especially in times of crisis. Yet they are underrepresented at management levels. Why is that? We asked Izabela Ianelli from Endemol Shine Brasil and journalist Lori Lizarraga - both members of the WOW Dinner.

Female managers and how they lead their companies through times of crisis
Image: © rh2010 / Adobe Stock

Do women master crises better? A multifaceted question

Particularly in difficult and uncertain times, for example during the coronavirus pandemic, how managers behave is crucial to business success. What advantages do companies with female managers have? In Part I from August, we already discussed this question with Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient. We wanted to further explore the topic from another perspective. Since female managers are still greatly underrepresented in Latin America, we interviewed Izabela Ianelli and Lori Lizarraga about the issue.

Despite the fact that equality is not a new topic, female managers are very much in the minority in many industries. Could this be about to change?

Izabela Ianelli: I work daily to change this, and I strongly believe that the changes already have started. I do not have memories of having examples of women in executive positions close to me when I was a child or even being a teenager. Today, every time I look to my sides and see other women being in executive positions, I realize that we are reaching a new level in the world of work.

Lori Lizarraga: I certainly think so! Women have overcome so many societal barriers to get where we are today in the professional landscape. And industries are only just scratching the surface of our potential! Women are leaders, doers, challenge takers, team thinkers, forward movers, multitaskers, goal-oriented problem solvers who will deliver success every time we set out to do so. Those are the minds any business should want in their management positions!

Izabela Ianelli on the importance of female managers in times of crisis
Izabela Ianelli is the Digital Director at Endemol Shine Brasil. In an interview with DMEXCO, she discusses the topic of “female managers”.

At the start of the year, separate studies conducted by Harvard University and the University of Liverpool concluded that countries led by women seem to be weathering the COVID-19 crisis better. What advantages do female leaders have over others in crisis situations?

Izabela Ianelli: Women leaders have the ability to consider the many sides of a unique situation and take important decisions which promote big changes without forgetting the human necessities. I believe this is the secret!

Lori Lizarraga: In my life I have grown up and surrounded myself with many strong women. In my experience, women think two, three and four steps ahead. We can manage unexpected or worst-case scenarios without panicking. We see a problem and immediately start working around it or plowing right through it to find the solution or an alternative. In fact, many of us are solving miniature crises in our own lives or for our own families daily. It stands to reason that those skills would serve women well during the pandemic.

Lori Lizarraga is convinced that female managers have enormous potential
Lori Lizarraga is an Ecuadorian-Mexican-American journalist from Texas. Read here about where she sees the potential of female managers.

The fact that the way women communicate is an important factor in navigating crises has also been highlighted, so what lessons can men learn from women here?

Izabela Ianelli: The process of communication in crises needs to be based on truth and confidence: Women admit that crises are happening soon in the first stages and invest time in understanding the problems and the solutions that are being proposed. So, when they communicate it to others, they believe in it.

Lori Lizarraga: Many of us understand that communication is a process that is most powerful when both listening and learning are involved. When done correctly, that means taking feedback, elevating good ideas, correcting mistakes and improving procedures – not just nodding your head and allowing someone to “feel heard.” When it comes to communication, everyone is different, and I think everyone brings something important to the table. When there is a good balance of women and men from a wide age range who represent a large pool of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds and all those voices feel empowered and valuable, the level of productive and effective communication will be at its peak.

Women are often accused of failing to put themselves forward for management positions and of holding back when it comes to promotion. Are women too self-critical, does this stop them from progressing and how can we combat stereotypical prejudices?

Izabela Ianelli: Historically, society has imposed limits on women. I have no doubts that all those limits still directly affect how women behave in the workspace and the way they relate to the work in their life. We need to keep fighting against the stereotypes daily. The big goal is to promote a more inclusive and safer workspace where women feel stimulated to grow and accept higher positions.

Lori Lizarraga: If women aren’t going out for promotion, we should look at the system that has kept them from being elevated for so long. If there isn’t a real opportunity for a woman to succeed against her male counterparts for a promotion, why try? If a woman isn’t certain that her new title would be truly respected or give her more authority in the workplace, does she even want it? If a woman’s motherhood will be used against her instead of being seen as the powerful role it is, it’s fair for her to question whether that promotion will really help or hurt her. All those scenarios are still very real problems for many women in many industries across the world. The professional world has a long way to go to truly give women the credit we deserve, and the paycheck to match. As those improvements continue to be made, women leaders will continue to rise to the top!

The WOW Dinner is part of an inspirational global series of networking events taking place around the globe, aims to at promote diversity and the empowerment of women in tech and related industries.

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