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Women: Want to Lead? Be Resilient, Reports Accenture

In celebration of International Women’s Day today—honoring the economic, political and social achievements of women globally—Accenture has released a critical leadership report, “Women Leaders and Resilience: Perspectives from the C-Suite.” Accenture surveyed 524 senior-level executives, including CEOs, COOs and CFOs, from companies with annual revenues in excess of $250 million in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. The goal: to determine the value global corporate decision makers place on resilience as a leadership trait and how they’re preparing women for senior positions.

Here’s what Accenture, No. 23 in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity, found in its new research.

*Resilience is key to retention: 71 percent of the corporate leaders say resilience, defined as “the ability to overcome challenges and turn them into opportunities,” is very to extremely important when deciding who to retain at a company.

*Women are slightly more resilient than men: 53 percent of the executive respondents report women as very to extremely resilient, while 51 percent feel men are very to extremely resilient.

“Resilience—the combination of adaptability, flexibility and strength of purpose—may be the new criterion for professional advancement,” says Accenture’s Chief Leadership Officer Adrian Lajtha. “In the current world of economic uncertainty and intense competitiveness, organizations that instill resilience in their up-and-coming leadership will have a clear advantage.”

*Career-enhancing assignments are prolific: More than half of the survey takers (60 percent) say they are providing women with leadership opportunities; 40 percent are preparing them for senior management.

*Talent-development initiatives continue: Despite the recession, nearly one-half of respondents (48 percent) report making no changes in the last year to their women’s leadership initiatives, including coaching and mentoring programs. Meanwhile, 18 percent say they’ve made moderate to extensive increases, 22 percent report augmenting their mentoring initiatives and 17 percent have enhanced their leadership programs for Blacks, Latinos and other underrepresented groups.

How are these global companies fostering women’s career development specifically?

  • 48 percent provide internal mentors versus nearly all of the 2009 DiversityInc Top 50
  • 46 percent offer work/life–balance programs, compared with more than 90 percent of the 2009 DiversityInc Top 50
  • 37 percent provide external coaches
  • 24 percent assign an advocate to women early in their careers

“Leading organizations will provide high-performing women with a variety of experiences, including training, mentoring and ‘stretch’ roles, to increase their resilience and confidence to prepare them to succeed in senior leadership positions,” says Nellie Borrero, Accenture’s managing director of global inclusion and diversity.

Other key findings from the report:

  • Generation Y women (those born after 1979) are seen as the most flexible in the workplace
  • North American, European and Asian Pacific executives attribute teamwork more frequently to women than they do to men (22 percent women vs. 7 percent men, 27 percent women vs. 13 percent men and 27 percent women vs. 15 percent men, respectively)
  • While executives in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific are on average more likely to link a confident demeanor to men (35 percent) than women (8 percent), Latin American executives assign confidence more to women (38 percent) than men (14 percent)

For the full Accenture report, click here

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