What Would Happen If More Women Led?
by Bill Donahue
July 27th, 2016

It’s still a man’s world out there. Recent data again affirms that men in comparable positions and with similar expertise and experience are paid 20-60 percent more than their female counterparts.  There has certainly been some progress, but it is still difficult to get a C-suite position if you are a qualified women.

C’mon guys. It is time for US to speak up. This is no longer a woman’s movement – it is a humanity movement.  And it is a leadership issue.

It starts early, even as women graduate from college. According to CNN Money, women graduates with the same majors, jobs and hours still get 7 percent less pay than male graduates. And that can follow them a long time, despite their performance.

If there is one place we should be able to get to some equality it is in the workplace, where we can measure results and performance more easily than in politics or education.

Let’s remember the gross inequalities that abound worldwide, and they are sad (just read Half the Sky if you want to look at some very stark realities for young women). Women worldwide are more likely to be abused, neglected, ignored, and overlooked, and treatment of young girls in many countries remains an atrocity.

But what about closer to home in the good old US of A? How are we doing? More women are going to college than men in many areas now, and more women are stepping into challenging roles in the media, educational leadership, politics and religion. But the marketplace remains largely a male-dominated place.

So, what are we afraid of? What happens when women lead?

When women lead, usually the same things happen that happen when men lead. There are great male leaders and some real duds out there. The same is true of women, but they do not get the slack that men get. When a women falls short in the leadership category she must overcome not simply a poor performance, but also the gender stigma – “she just could not compete with the big boys!”


I have worked with (and for) strong and weak leaders, men and women. A bad leader is a bad leader, and strong leaders can be found in each gender. But there are not many Meg Whitmans and Carly Fiorinas out there who will really get a chance to lead.  Writing in 2011 in the Courier News/Sun Times Dr. Ella Edmondson Bell observes:

This year a record number of women are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies — but you still don’t need all of your fingers and toes to count them. (You don’t even need all of your fingers to count those running Fortune 100s.)
Few as they are, they’re doing fine at the top, thank you very much. During the economic storm of 2009, women leaders proved they can be as tough, decisive and competitive as men. USA Today reports that stocks of the 13 Fortune 500 companies run by women for all of 2009 were up an average of 50 percent. The biggest female winner was Mary Sammons, whose Rite Aid stock soared 387 percent!

There’s more and it is worth the quick read.


When women lead they bring all their gifts, insights, experience, stamina, charisma and womanly strengths to the job – just as men bring theirs. I believe men and women are different (not just physically) and that each has great strengths to bring to the table. We need more balance in the boardroom and more ladies at the top of the leadership ladder – but for the right reasons. A token leader is a disaster for everyone, and no woman leader worth her salt wants a handout.


I believe we need more men and women leading together in the marketplace. Women will bring some relational depth that is lacking, typically have greater gut instincts and intuition, and bring a fresh perspective on our clients, customers, parishioners and students.

When men and women lead together with trust and integrity it is effective, efficient, engaging and profitable. Sure, we will still huddle with the guys and gather with the girls because we like to hang out with our own in some settings.

But when it comes to employing gifted, effective leaders, we should not be afraid to shout, “Ladies First!” Not because women are weak, but because they are overlooked and undervalued. Given the chance, they will open doors and build balance sheets with the best of us.

What would the world look like if more women joined the leadership ranks, sharing challenges and opportunities with men as a community of leaders? Wow…I can only imagine.

Bill Donahue is a professor at Trinity International University and president of the LeaderSync Group, a leadership development consulting firm. For 18 years Bill served as Director of Group Life & Leadership at Willow Creek Community Church & Association, and he has authored over 20 books and resources including the best sellers Leading Life-Changing Small Groups and Coaching Life-Changing Leaders.  

More of Bill Donahue: www.drbilldonahue.com