We need more female leader role models in think tanks

9 December 2019
SERIES Ideas, reflections and advice from future think tank leaders 17 items

When it comes to leadership, there is a lack of women representation – be it in think tanks, the private or public sector. Only 18% of the largest non-profits have female CEOs.+ And when they do make it to leadership positions, they earn less – the Nonprofit Compensation Report 2017 found that female CEOs earn 21% less than their male counterparts.+ 

It is clear that an organisational culture change is needed to achieve true equity. But breaking paradigms about leadership is easier said than done. In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that we will not see global gender parity until 2095.+ And in 2015, they estimated that the gender gap will not close until 2133.+

It may be a long battle, but as more women enter into leadership positions they become role models. And seeing women in positions of leadership, and as experts contributing to public debate, will inspire young women and girls to aim for leadership positions too.

It will also give parents’ new aspirations for their daughters. In fact, studies have shown that the presence of a female leader increases the likelihood that parents will want their daughters to graduate, or to study beyond secondary school level or to support studies in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers.+

Increasing exposure to female leadership is essential for breaking down societal perceptions and dominant cultural norms that are a barrier to capable women leading organisations.

Policy initiatives that support women to achieve leadership positions helpful. For example, leadership initiatives for women, scholarships, capacity building, research grants and female executive programmes.

Think tanks can help to lead this shift, as organisations that promote and support more fair and just public policy and society. My personal experience working in a think tank, is that women can be strong and powerful decision-makers.

Are there female leaders in your organisation? Are there policies and initiatives in place to support women to achieve leadership roles?