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Exploring Women's Leadership Journeys

Women comprise a very small proportion (28%) of senior managers and leaders in New Zealand organisations and statistics reveal a plateauing in their numbers over the last decade (Grant Thornton, 2012). The dearth of women business leaders has significant organisational consequences. Previous research has shown that women bring a variety of skills and talents to organisations due to their diversity of skills, and decision-making abilities (McKinsey & Company, 2010; Deloitte Australia, 2011). In addition, a series of Catalyst studies from 2004 to 2011 has shown that companies that have more women in their management ranks and on their boards have significantly better revenue and profitability (Catalyst, 2011). Women’s active participation in senior leadership is therefore good not only for New Zealand’s economy but also for their organisations’ bottom lines. This underutilised resource is too valuable for New Zealand to ignore. In this research, I sought to understand how existing women leaders had moved into senior leadership roles in New Zealand organisations and how they had succeeded, in order to find ways of increasing the number of women leaders in the future. Taking an Appreciative Inquiry research approach, I aimed to discover ways of raising the percentage above 28% by interviewing a number of women business leaders about the stories, methods, and strategies that they believed underpinned their transition to top leadership roles. To give the study breadth, I selected women leaders from areas as diverse as public relations, publicly listed companies and not-for-profit organisations and then interviewed them individually to learn about the successes and challenges of their leadership journeys. One unexpected but welcome finding was the lack of evidence from any of the participants of the famous “glass ceiling.” Nevertheless, the participants did provide insight into many other challenges women have to face in order to obtain senior leadership positions. While they didn’t find a glass ceiling, the women often indicated signs of continuing gender discrimination. Many of the participants expressed their frustration that getting to the top is a lot harder for women than men and many participants noted that work/life balance was one of the biggest obstacles they had to negotiate. The thesis closes by deriving practical recommendations for the advancement of women to influential leadership positions.
Type of thesis
Loeffen, O. (2016). Exploring Women’s Leadership Journeys (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10580
University of Waikato
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