Who are the female voices on leadership?

Female Empowerment.jpg

No matter the challenge or creative endeavor you’d like to pursue, a good starting point is always learning from those that came before you. Understand the masters and their path.

If you want to publish a book, time spent researching the writing methods and publishing pitfalls of authors will kickstart the foundation you build for yourself in the journey to reaching your goal.

As a co-founder of Inside Out, a four month immersive leadership experience for women, I set time aside to research the female voices already contributing to dialog about leadership.

Like most people seeking more than just their own experience, I turned to Google.

“Top 10 books on leadership”
“Top 10 experts on leadership”
“Top 10 speakers on leadership”

Google the same question slightly different ways and you will end up just where I did. Stumped.

There are very few female voices contributing to the conversation around leadership.

There are exceptions to that statement, of course, including Sheryl Sandberg who co-authored her first book in 2013 (alongside a man), called Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

But Sheryl doesn’t show up on these lists. Very few women do.

On one list, only 3 of 50 featured names were women. On another, a click onto the second page of an article finally highlighted the first woman next to the number 17.

This is not a conversation about the present voices being wrong (often in fact, they are valuable), but it is a conversation about the benefit we all gain from a diversity of voices on any topic. This is exactly the same line of thinking woven beneath the growing call for more female leaders. Everyone wins when there is a diversity of ideas.

The Hay Group’s research shows that “the world’s top leaders draw on a repertoire of six different leadership styles; they change their approach according to the situation, the challenge and the person they’re dealing with at any given time.” Existing voices on leadership understand the benefits of building an adaptive leadership muscle. Widening the lens of voices contributing the conversation will uncover signals about the adaptability required to promote diversity in leadership.

Most people agree that user research (with real consumers outside of an organization) is critically important in the development of products. Why? If companies opted instead to source their user research from potential consumers within their organization, the results would be limited. Subconsciously, the user research would come from a lens of experience gained from being inside the organization that real consumers wouldn’t hold.

I see examples of this everywhere. The book Bringing up Bebe tells the story an American born mother raising her child in Paris. In doing so, she realized that the parenting advice dominating conversation in the United States was likely limited. American mothers learning from other American mothers. Sure, parenting has shifted over the last 100 years, but one woman’s leap across the pond brought a paradigm shift to parenting that may never have come without an opening to a greater diversity of ideas.

Research led and executed by men will fail to consider female leadership, in its full capacity, because implicit bias will live in its design. A system of male leadership experts teaching, coaching, and advising a predominantly male leadership bench will continue to fail women.

This system will perpetuate itself.

Part of my mission, in co-founding the Inside Out Incubator, is to add female voices to the dialog on leadership principles best practices. Together, we can shift the scale.

Shine On,


Alicia Jabbar