Women have come a long way in business and in all areas of society yet 2021 may be the one year when women can step up and prove their worth as never before. Indeed it may be that this year could bring about a real change in the true and real value women bring to the world of business and the economy as a whole. However it won’t happen if women themselves do not take action and step into the limelight – women must be seen and heard more than ever in 2021.
A global pandemic which has had such devastating consequences across the world has taught many lessons and, sadly, one of them has been that the economic impact has hit women in business disproportionately. Why? Because women tend to run smaller businesses, micro businesses and tiny enterprises often from their own homes the world over – and these women have not generally been well supported. Why? They are often seen as of little value.
These women are also more likely to have caring responsibilities – for children or older relatives – which has impacted their ability to ‘do business’ or to ‘lead a business’. Yet these very things, these dual roles which many women have and have juggled for a generation or two, have surely proved their worth in 2020 and will continue to do so. A woman who can do that at home, can run any company, anywhere with support and with the right team around them.
Managing homes, relationships and businesses in a different way in 2020 has shown the key strengths of many women in business – be they CEO of a large team or CEO of themselves. The lessons of change had to be learned quickly, business had to be flexible, agile and to adapt quickly in a way never before seen (thank goodness for the internet and the digital age). As a CEO myself and quite young at that (31) I had to learn quickly too.
Women excel at this juggling act of life – they may often take a little time to embrace change, to do something different however once committed they will take action and they won’t care if it’s in the boardroom, the kitchen or the dining room.
To survive in business in 2020 meant assessing an evolving situation, noticing changes in customer or client behaviour, taking action and making changes. In 2021 this can continue and evolve for there is no going back.
Having flexed, pivoted and been agile in business in 2020, the female CEO of 2021 will need to do more of the same and then seek a new balance in the world of business which will emerge in 12 to 18 months’ time.
- Continue to be confident and step outside of comfort zones especially if the business has been ‘bumbling along’ or ‘just managing’ by flexing clunky and outdated technical processes and procedures. Now is the time to get smart and, if budget exists, to implement new software and systems to work smarter in a new world of business.
- Now more than ever a female CEO must understand team roles and the strengths and weaknesses of those teams and take action around those. People are central to success so they must be supported. This may mean more CPD for your team members, embracing health and wellness support for team members or it may mean something else. Be honest, compassionate and clear about your teams and the way they work. If a team is not working, communicate the need for change and offer positive solutions, often a team will, with support, change itself.
- Understand yourself as a CEO – behaviour trickles down to a team no matter if that team is working in an office or in their homes. No CEO can be great at every role in any business so take a long look at your own role and honestly assess your own performance. Are you the person holding back your own business? Are you a control freak? Are you squashing a bright spark by being a micro manager? Bring in someone to help with this if you cannot see the wood for the trees. For example, a business psychologist can help a CEO, female or male, embrace their strengths, recognise their weaknesses and the overall impact on the business. This will also help in hiring the right people to inspire and create growth – whether that’s a new employee or outsourced support. Growth can mean taking a step back to usher in the future.
- Embrace opportunity at every turn. Even when something looks like a small opportunity, take it and think outside the box on how to mould it into a larger opportunity. No CEO can see the future or predict the future. Yet it’s better to have tried and failed then to never have tried at all. The great Pierre Cardin, who passed away just a few days ago, showed off his fashion range in China at a time when fashion was controlled by the State. He saw a future opportunity at least ten years out and he embraced it. All CEOs could do with a little of that Cardin magic at this time. Are you really in it for the long game?
- Find a sounding board that challenges yet supports your creativity. Every CEO needs someone for them, male or female. Someone who provides a safe space for sharing worries, concerns and for embracing and encouraging a CEO’s own creativity and new ideas. That person could be a life partner, however that may not be appropriate and may be too emotional. It could be a business coach or a business mentor – yet someone outside of the business yet who knows the business enough to be that important ‘critical friend’ who can challenge your perceptions and push you onwards and upwards.