Carlson School

8 New Trends in Women's Leadership

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Three women leaders offer insights on how women shape the workplace amid a changing business landscape.

Alexa Ruda is president of Undergraduate Women in Business, a student organization dedicated to bringing women together in business-related fields. Ruda gleaned the following trends from a women’s leadership conference she attended last fall:

Solid business strategy includes women

Not long ago, women were included in leadership roles because organizations were beholden to promote gender equality. But now the dynamic has shifted. Decades of results prove women make exceptional business leaders who guide sound strategy.

Women remain hindered by stereotypes

Despite massive advancements for women in the workplace, men still outnumber them in managerial positions. Some professionals believe women are at a disadvantage from the outset because their actions are clouded by gender stereotypes. For example, while a man who opines candidly in a meeting may seem assertive, a woman who speaks her mind similarly may be perceived by her colleagues as aggressive.

The corporate ladder restricts avenues for growth

As organizations increasingly distribute workforces across business units, opportunities for upward advancement dwindle. Instead of climbing the corporate ladder, women should consider making lateral moves within an organization to become more well-rounded professionals.

Svetlana Sandberg

Svetlana Sandberg is a member of MBA Women International, a collective of students dedicated to propelling women into leadership positions and enhancing diversity in the workplace. Sandberg was among four members who attended the Womensphere Emerging Leaders Global Summit this January, where she derived these lessons:

Women should consider STEM fields

With demand rising for workers with skills in science, technology, engineering, and math, these fields are rife with opportunities for women professionals.

Government needs women’s perspectives

From the U.S. Congress to the city council, women should vie for positions in public office. The public officials who rule on issues of massive importance to men and women alike tend to lean toward men. But by incorporating a woman’s perspective, governmental bodies can better serve their constituents.

beth kieffer leonard

Beth Kieffer Leonard is a managing partner of Lurie Besikof Lapidus & Company, LLP and a member of the Carlson School Board of Overseers. Active in several civic organizations, her leadership role has won recognition from numerous national and regional associations. Most recently, she was chosen among The (Real) Power 50 by Minnesota Business. Throughout her career, she has stayed true to the following leadership tactics:

Women’s intuition can reap rewards

Women, by nature, are more conservative when approaching risk. They should apply their intuition to vet new opportunities and jump in with both feet when the fit feels right.

Focus on important tasks

Delegating can be challenging for women professionals who sometimes believe they can and should do it all. By learning to share some tasks with colleagues and offload others entirely, women can dedicate their talents to projects that bring more value to their companies.

Community is key

Amid increasing pressure to lead careers while caring for families, women have grown competitive with one another. In embracing a community of professionals, regardless of gender, women could build a network where there’s room for everyone to succeed. It’s also important for women in the workplace to invest in the professional development of one another through mentorship and networking.