Our CEO Louise Johnson shares her thoughts with WARC, looking back at a watershed year for women across culture, sport, and business – but recognises how much more needs to be done. 

Last year was a year of incredible successes for female empowerment, and I’m not just talking in the boardroom. We all marvelled at Barbie reaching new heights at the box office, as she ushered in a new wave of girl power and made it onto the Forbes 2023 most powerful list

Women’s sport hit record views during the FIFA World Cup in Australia and the Women’s NBAs, with 46.7m people in the UK watching women’s sport on linear TV in 2023. And finally, female artists took centre stage at both the Grammy’s and the Brits, with singer, songwriter Raye winning six out of the seven Brit prizes following years of rejection from her record label. Let’s not forget to mention the newly coined ‘Taylor Swift Effect’ which has generated nearly $5 billion in consumer spending. 

Female leaders or icons are often compared directly with their male counterparts, expected to live up to terms more commonly used by men, such as ‘strong’ and ‘powerful’, to determine their ability and self-worth. But as we look at the actions of these global female icons, we see the embracement of more feminine traits in leadership. By displaying mental resilience, emotional intelligence and empathy, female icons are adopting a mindset of continuous learning and growth.

So, what can we learn from these female icons to be better leaders, colleagues and friends?

Mental resilience and emotional intelligence

While Chloe Kelly’s penalty in the game against Nigeria went down as the fastest shot in the World Cup, it was her admirable act of emotional intelligence when she comforted Nigeria goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie that got the public, papers and presenters talking. 

The journey of the Lionesses is one of remarkable resilience. They fostered a supportive and transparent culture, learned from their mistakes and bounced back from losses. All under the inspirational leadership of Sarina Weigman. 

This show of sportsmanship demonstrates a softness that often isn’t seen in football. With almost one-third of UK workers saying they’ve quit a job because of negative management, a caring approach to adversity should be adopted in the workplace too. When you care about your work, colleagues and friends, you inspire and drive them to be their best self. 

Overcoming adversity 

When Raye spoke out about the record company who let her go three weeks after preventing her from releasing an album and then went on to win six Brit awards, she set a precedent for women pursuing their dream careers no matter the hurdles. Her actions shone a light on how self-belief and remaining true to your values can help overcome adversity. She said: “The artist I was three years ago would not believe I’m in control – I’m my own boss.”

But she also showed businesses that the characteristics of your leadership has a big impact on growth, with research finding that CEO’s who score highly in traits such as compassion and integrity, can earn a 9.35% return on assets over two years.

While society and businesses are continuing to raise awareness of and improve female specific issues, such as the gender pay gap and support with the menopause (which are both important), there are subjects that still aren’t garnering the same attention, such as fertility. We’ve witnessed some sports stars bravely speaking out on their own personal journeys, but there is still a huge gap for business leaders in particular to address, given 1 in 7 people are affected by infertility and 176 million women globally have endometriosis. 

We have much to celebrate as we look back over the last year, but the journey ahead is still a long and windy road. Society as a whole must learn from our female role models, take on board their leadership traits and then invest for the long term to drive real change. 

See the article here…