Women hold only 34% of managerial positions in Spain. An insufficient number that has brought to light a new leadership, in female key, which breaks and weakens more and more social barriers.
Spain establishes, by law, that people of the same sex should not exceed 60% in private management positions. It seeks what, in the words of the philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill, would be a “perfect equality that does not admit power and privilege for some or incapacity for others”. In practice, however, the figure is blurred and this purpose remains a challenge. Since women entered universities in 1910, they have encountered the paradox that, despite having the same education, they cannot access the same positions.
A working life marked for generations by male bosses and which, little by little, as the figures show, opens the door to the other half of society. And while the difficulty of accessing certain positions remains, family life reconciliation remains a challenge and the pay gap a reality, more and more women are taking the reins of their professional lives and, therefore, of their life. Female leadership brings to light this revolutionary spirit which, far from the patterns hitherto marked, claims that power can also be conscious, transformative, and sustainable.
Entrepreneurship and sorority: leadership takes new forms
Talking about female leadership is often talking about entrepreneurship. The observatory conducted by the company Extraordinaria in 2020 found that 58% of entrepreneur women did it out of necessity. This figure can make us think of circumstances such as the difficulty of promoting within companies, the impact of family life reconciliation or motherhood on working life, or the exclusion from the market that many women of a certain age suffer. The causes are many, and the answer is clear: if they cannot follow the path marked by society, they will make their own path.
This is the case of Gemma Fillol, who has shown from her experience that entrepreneurship becomes leadership. She is currently the CEO of Extraordinaria, the entrepreneurship and feminine leadership network that connects more than 50,000 women in Spain. Based on the figures in the study, she points out that “women work for different reasons than men. In fact, one of the main fears of entrepreneur women is not billing but not being able to handle everything. In the end, it is the here and the now that moves us. At Extraordinaria we observe what these behaviours are and how we can help them. How to create sorority”.
Society remains deeply unequal and Fillol claims access to the same opportunities and rights “from the most absolute difference, because the difference is enriching”. According to her, one tries to lead from a feminine point of view, but the system is masculine, and this causes the clash of these two worlds, two ways of acting and seeing the world. This is why many women who access high positions do so from these male patterns that have traditionally been associated with power.
What are the keys to female leadership?
More cooperation and less competition. More teamwork and less hierarchy. More empathy, collaboration, and intuition, and less passivity, control, and impulsiveness. Many authors have described the characteristics of this leadership, and precisely this need to transform concepts that until now we associated with power: it is the first step to understand that female leadership is not only about a woman assuming a position, but a woman who wants to provide a new vision of working, communicating, and even understanding the company and its goals.
As Fillol points out, “we seek not only to create sustainable businesses economically, but also in the human sphere. Making a social impact, changing the status quo. The purpose is very clear, companies are being built from somewhere else and this is very revolutionary. The capital is not the most important thing, and the Covid-19 crisis has shown that the companies that have survived are the ones that have made an effort in activating empathy and active listening”.
Precisely this feminine vision in terms of decisive sensitivity and empathy was referred to by ECB President Christine Lagarde in 2008, when she said that “if it had been Lehman Sisters instead of Lehman Brothers, the world would look different”.
From exclusive leadership to participatory leadership
“Resilience, the ability to emerge stronger from an impact, is a characteristic of leadership”, and this is precisely the key for the leaders of the future. Move away from the image of power and possession, and link themselves to contribution and cooperation. A leadership that goes from being within the reach of a few to becoming popular: “For me, a leader is a responsible person committed to their success and the impact they want to leave in this world”.
True female leadership is what generates a positive impact, not just from senior positions, but across the board. From the bottom to the top. As Gemma Fillol concludes, “we all make an impact. Activism can be practised from as close aspects as the children’s school, the stores where you shop, or who you vote for. We should all be conscious people, question everything, and be committed to our deepest longings and the imprint we want to leave on the world. We should all be leaders”.