Thought Leaders, or people who are known amongst others for their innovative ways of thinking and their individual ways of promoting those thoughts, are more important today than ever, but it is usually a role taken up by men. In this day in age, where women are open to equal opportunities to men, I am becoming increasingly aware that there is a gender balance happening, which is evident in the growing number of women coming into politics. But there is still some way to go.
In my experience, being remembered is the key to being a successful thought leader and it just so happens that men tend to be better at promoting themselves – but so are bold, opinionated women. So for things like who gets remembered, and who stands out and appears to be unique it doesn’t matter if they are male or female.
Consider Richard Branson, Theo Paphitis, Anita Roddick, James Caan, Simon Woodruffe, James Dyson… all of these people have written their books. All serious business leaders have put books out and are undisputed experts or thought leaders in their fields. In fact, if they are not vocal and opinionated, regularly interviewed or quoted in the press, even those people are at risk of being forgotten in this unforgiving and competitive market.
But even on this list, there were still not many women. In fact, there are very few women that spring to mind when considering true thought leaders. We still live in a very male dominated society even though there are plenty of women with real skills and determination to make it to the top.
So, why the gap between women being given equal opportunities and real life examples of women leading the way?
It has a lot to do with cultural factors. Women are brought up not to boast about themselves and to play down their strengths. This does not serve them well when competing in a business environment, especially with outspoken men who, at times, play up their strengths.
Women are supposedly such good communicators, so perhaps this is why women tend to publish their ideas in the form of a book. Women business leaders certainly know as much and have as much knowledge and wisdom as their male counterparts; they just don’t always take that next step and share it widely.
When you write and publish your own articles, books and blogs, you put a stake in the ground, showing your market where you stand on important issues. This can seem very scary, but what you are actually doing is helping them put a face to the name of your company and its services, and as we all know, people buy people. Most importantly, you show your customers that you have thought through key topics and can articulate your leadership on these topics in a way that can influence and guide people to a better level of understanding.
Without this communication, people don’t know what value you provide, and they only hear from bolder people who are willing to shout about their ideas. When women write and publish good books and articles, they show that they are the real thought leaders in this space – and not the other guy – or woman.
I would in fact go as far to say that as long as women continue to write their ideas down they will start to be remembered more frequently. By writing about their ideas and expressing their thought leadership values, people are more likely to remember the message. They will read about you in their own time and are more likely to do this when they have some spare time, so they may make some further inquiries.
Men will begin to face fiercer competition, as women begin to fight their way to the top. Women will still have their work cut out though, as they’ve got a lot of ground to cover to get up to the same representation as men and they’ll have to work twice as hard to prove they are up to the jobs. But it certainly won’t be easy for those men currently holding the top positions!