What Makes a Strong Female Leader?
Close your eyes and picture “leadership.” What does it look like?
A high-ranking military official in an ornate uniform covered in medals? A veteran captain of a sports team giving an inspirational speech during halftime that gets everyone fired up for a big comeback win? The aspiring executive, sleeves rolled up, working late nights to make sure everything’s in place for an important initiative?
Now open your eyes. When you pictured those leaders, how many were women?
In honor of National Women’s History Month, we’ve asked some of the exceptional female leaders at Aerotek for their perspective on several issues — what they think about the benefits of having women in leadership, what particular qualities inspirational women bring to the table and how female leaders can overcome challenges in the workforce.
Here’s what they have to say.Benefits
Female leadership helps everyone. As Aerotek Implementation Specialist Andrea Rupnick puts it, “All employees benefit from having women in leadership positions. A diversity of leadership types show employees that each person can bring something unique to the table.” Ashley Carter, customer support supervisor, agrees, citing diversity of thought as a major benefit of having women in leadership positions.
Strategic Account Executive Alevia Colombell comments, “Female leaders show how to balance duties in the office and outside of the office. They look at problems from all sides to see how it impacts everyone. They listen, inspire and support their teammates and peers.” These qualities embody a workplace culture that reduces unnecessary stress, increases inclusion and inspires employee confidence.
Aerotek Project Manager Bethany Odom adds, “Having women in leadership positions provides inspiration, examples and role models for other women. Existing female leaders pave the way for roughly half of the workforce to create their own opportunities to realize success. Half! That’s a large group that organizations have to capitalize on to reach their full potential.”strong>Leadership qualities
It’s surprising how often “different” gets confused with “better” or “worse.” Female leadership often takes on distinct characteristics, offering a unique perspective on how success looks. When we asked some of Aerotek’s top women for examples of leadership they found inspiring, they focused on some of the ways female leadership shines through.
Alevia Colombell noted a common theme of flexibility, sacrifice and service among the leaders she found inspiring. She noted that multiple colleagues had relocated for the benefit of the company, in one case “even traveling with a newborn at home.” Colombell also recalls the entrepreneurship of exceptional women leaders, mentioning that one woman she admires “offered her experience to help implement programs outside of her job description,” and another “took on new and undefined roles to have a more positive impact on offices, regions and the company.”
Aerotek Implementation Specialist Whitney Bice Purugganan was impressed by female leaders’ ability to manage both their work and home lives. “Juggling being a mom and a working business woman is a challenge. Watching other moms do this with ease is inspiring,” she says.Challenges
As Andrea Rupnick explains it, “Women can face a variety of obstacles in the larger workforce: pay disparity, colleagues who judge them based on their gender, and the difficulty of having people ‘take you seriously’ in a sometimes male-dominated business field.”
When asked for methods to overcome misconceptions, Colombell says, “Speak up in a confident and knowledgeable way to explain your point of view in team meetings. Manage work [and home] by being efficient and effective with your time, listening, prioritizing and empowering your team.”
Odom says, “There’s a female leader in my life I look up to who embraces the fact that she’s a very emotional person. This can often be a hindrance for women, given the perception of weakness. But she acknowledges it’s part of who she is, refuses to apologize for it and in turn develops truer, more honest relationships with her business partners because they appreciate the genuineness of her responses.”
On National Women’s History Month, and every day, we salute powerful women who inspire at Aerotek and beyond. We invite you to take this opportunity to thank the exceptional women in your life for their strength and positive leadership.
Have you been inspired by an example of outstanding female leadership? Share it with us on Facebook or Twitter. We’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a job, visit our job board to find your next great opportunity or create a free career account today to customize your search.