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Women’s Leadership at Yale

5 min read.

Gemma Corbett, Board Director

by Gemma Corbett, Board Director

Spark Foundry

As part of Core Learning‘s bursary programme, I was lucky enough to attend the Women’s Leadership Program at Yale University, Connecticut in June. It is one of the most inspiring programs I have ever attended. I choose this course for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I believed it would help me tackle some of the unique challenges women face in the workplace.

Although women make up 53% of the marketing industry, they only represent 38% of CEO/MD/Board Directors. Representation is slowly getting better, with Core leading the charge. However, I began to ask why have many of the women that influenced me greatly, at the early days of my career, not made it to senior management level.

Research shows that companies with gender diversity at a senior level benefit significantly and release better financial performance. Further to that women disrupt groupthink, improve communications dynamics, and reinvigorate companies in ways that make them more competitive.

While it is clear that women aren’t promoted in the same numbers as men, the root problem isn’t the promotion pipeline. The problem is attrition. In reality, the expectations both in and outside of the workplace for women are different, and as a result, women are overwhelmed and overworked.

When it comes to the workplace, social scientists have calculated that a woman must be two and a half times more competent than a man to be viewed as his equal. In addition to this burden, further research shows that women in business are presumed to be incompetent until they prove themselves, while men are presumed to be competent.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just men who make these assumptions; women are just as likely to show less respect toward other women. Even Googles own search algorithm shows a disturbing prejudice when you type in ‘Managing Director’ – almost all men, or ‘Nurse’ almost all women.

Let us not forget the pressures on working mothers who are twice as likely as their male counterparts to run the household, three times more likely to manage their childrens’ schedules, and eight times more likely to require time off to care for a sick child.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it! However, as a director of one of the Media Teams in Core, we are building a competitive advantage by developing women at critical transition points. If we don’t, we will continue to have a leaky pipeline of female leaders in our industry.

So what’s my advice? To anyone in the early years of any professional career, it is important to grow technical skills and industry expertise. These hard skills are what make our CVs stand out, but ultimately, they’re only one part of the equation. However, as we grow in our role, according to Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence (EQ) is “the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers,” and is the leading differentiator between employees whose IQ and technical skills are approximately the same.

It has been proven that women add unique value and perspective particularly in the area of EQ, but this is a key skill everyone should try to develop.

Whether remaining calm during times of turbulence, inspiring and building team consensus, or serving as an empathetic mentor and coach to nurture the next generation of marketing practitioners, team leaders who tap into their social and emotional intelligence competencies make for highly effective managers. An emotionally intelligent compassionate workplace is a more productive workplace with greater employee engagement, loyalty, and productivity.

No matter what level you are currently at, a critical step for career planning is to be reflective – soliciting feedback from colleagues and even family and friends – to create a career development plans based on your strengths.
Once you discover who you are at the top of your game, you can use your strengths to develop the positions you choose to play — both now and in the next phase of your career.

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