What does success look like?

International Women’s Day provided an opportunity to rue the small proportion of women in positions of power in Australia. With a single female federal cabinet member and 93% of CEO positions in Australian corporations held by men, the statistics are damning.

While we debate the reasons why women are not more visible in the political and business realms I’d suggest that the lack of diversity in leadership is symptomatic of how we view success.

People with high emotional intelligence, strong interpersonal skills, and a holistic desire to succeed - not only in their work but in their relationships with others and in terms of their self fulfilment - may not align their goals with traditional success. They may choose to opt out. We see talented women leaving or reducing their time in the workforce right at the time a traditionally successful career should be taking off. We don’t see many men from a broader range of cultural, social or religious backgrounds in traditionally “powerful” positions.

Despite evidence that those who demonstrate a range of skills including EI and a life outside the office make better leaders, they seem to be a rare breed. And if potential leaders with more holistic skills choose to leave formal organisational structures we end up with a smaller pool of folk who lack those skills filling the middle and senior leadership ranks. In turn this perpetuates the myth that success looks like a corner office with a white middle aged man behind the desk.

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