How Women Become Leaders by Hilarie Owen

4th Mar 2019

Hilarie Owen is a successful director, author, strategist, founder and Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership. In her blog she talks about her new book weLEAD: The route map for women leaders and inclusive organisations and the launch is on March in Cardiff, details below.

“Most organisations are aware of gender inequality and many are trying to address the issue with training programmes, coaching and trying to build a pipeline but these actions are not delivering the results quick enough. Filling the pipeline hasn’t produced the results and neither have policies.

In fact there is no correlation between the number of policies and creating a more gender inclusive culture. The barriers that hinder progress for women are far more complex and elusive.

I decided to explore women leaders in more depth. I interviewed women leaders across society in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England from business, the arts, sport, science, engineering, technology, manufacturing and government. I was enthralled by their autobiographical narratives.

Their stories were engaging and it became clear that their leadership emerged and grew from their experiences. It quickly unfolded that there were key patterns that were central to their ability to lead that I have tried to capture in my new book. One of the noticeable things was that in thirty interviewees I did not find one ego. In fact these women were like you and me so we can’t say ‘Ah, but they are different’.

Each woman, regardless of their background or education, had common elements they had developed. It wasn’t as simple as qualities, as important as these are, but constructs they had combined to form their leadership – a different form of leadership to the older male version. Their leadership role models began in childhood and almost all had faced failure or a very difficult challenge. What stood out was how they dealt with these. Most had children with two of them having four but they were not ‘super women’ they were real and well organised facing the pressures we all have to deal with.

Using integrity and building trust they were transforming organisations. Globally the World Economic Forum says that overall it will take 108 years for the gender gap to close with 202 years in economic terms. While more women are receiving higher education gender parity was shifting backwards in 2017 for the first time since 2006.

In the UK, more women are joining boards as Non-Executive Directors but this has become more of a tick box exercise as the numbers of full time women directors remain static. According to a report from Grant Thornton in 2017, the number of women coming through into senior management posts is actually declining. The solution isn’t to ‘fix women’ but to fix the barriers in organisations. So the book not only focuses on women leaders but how to enable organisations to be far more inclusive.

The book will be launched in Wales on March 22 at Cardiff City Hall and people can contact me for an invitation.

So far, I have written nine books on leadership that sell around the world opening up opportunities to work in different countries. Everywhere I meet inspiring women who are doing amazing work and campaigning for more opportunities for women.

My aim is quite clear. One day when someone asks women ‘what do you do? The answer will be ‘we are leaders changing the world for the better”.

Hilarie Owen: hilarie.owen@iofl.org