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Are women changing the world?

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It’s no secret men and women have very different leadership styles – both with their own sets of pros and cons.

But with more women taking on senior management roles in big global organisations, do the ladies have a thing or two to teach the rest of the world when it comes to leadership?

Over the past few years, women who have been appointed into top roles include Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO; Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors and most recently, Susan Wojcicki, who was named YouTube’s CEO earlier this month.

So what is setting these women apart?

They’ve earned their stripes

Barra started working for General Motors when she was 18, working her way up from working in engineering to managing a plant, and ultimately landing the coveted role this year. Likewise, Wojcicki has been with Google from the start – the company was started in her garage by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin – so it comes as little surprise that the company would trust her to lead YouTube, which they acquired in 2006.

Mayer and Sandberg are also Google alumni; Mayer worked there for 13 years before jumping ship to head Yahoo, while Sandberg spent more than six years there prior to her current role at Facebook. All four women have spent considerable amounts of time understanding how their respective industries operate, no doubt giving them an advantage in being better able to craft a strong business strategy.

They’ve found the sweet spot in work-life balance

Family commitments are often highlighted as one of the biggest barriers in obtaining work-life balance, but these women seem to have figured it out.

Mayer made headlines when she accepted the Yahoo role in the last trimester of her pregnancy and consequently built a nursery in her office so she could care for her son while at work. She also changed the company’s maternity leave policy in April last year by extending the time allowance and providing cash bonuses to parents.

Wojcicki was also four months pregnant when she joined Google and, now a mother of four, she is a firm believer in work-life balance, asking colleagues to not contact her between 6pm and 9pm when she is with her family.

They’re empowering change

Aside form breaking the glass ceiling, these women have also taken on other projects which are changing the way women are portrayed in society.

Sandberg’s latest collaboration with Getty Images is aiming to provide stock photography which represents more empowered women. The Lean In photo collection on Getty includes images such as a tattooed mum working at home with her child, a woman leading an office presentations and discussions, as well as doing sports or working in industries traditionally reserved for men.

Barra, who delivered the commencement speech at the Kettering University in June 2013, told students to “change the world”.

“More than any other generation in history, you have the power to expose and correct injustice, re-think outdated assumptions, and to make a real difference,” she said.

Image source: Wikipedia/WEF

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Sabrina Zolkifi
Deputy editor
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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