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Women in Leadership: Growth Through Representation

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By Stacey McKinnon

The elevation of women in leadership roles continues to drive the shift towards inclusivity and diversity in the service sector. The momentum towards gender equality is palpable with the industry gradually moving away from its historical “boys’ club” mentality, as evidenced in the presence of women at industry events in recent years.

At a prominent financial services event in 2018, the stark contrast in numbers between male and female attendees underscored gender disparity within the industry. The presence of women in executive positions in advisory firms was notably scarce. However, the women present at that event – seeing the imbalance – persisted, determined to shift the narrative through representation. Their persistence paid off as the leadership landscape slowly but surely began to change. By 2019, at another industry event, the audience composition shifted, with a considerable increase in female leadership from Operations Managers to Chief Operating Officers. Despite the progress, the questions posed to the speakers after their presentations centered on gender-based respect, challenging stereotypes, and the struggle to get women’s ideas acknowledged within their companies and organizations.

The transformation of this industry’s leadership landscape in the ensuing years was made possible by the steadfast efforts of women leaders who walked on stage after stage, sharing their perspectives and experiences at conferences and on social media platforms. These industry consultants and female leaders played crucial roles, creating opportunities for women to not only express themselves in this space, but also to advocate for change.

In our local community, we see these shifts happening each day. Chief Operating Officers are shattering the glass ceiling of “glorified secretary,” demonstrating the profound impact and authority women can wield in leadership positions beyond traditional administrative roles. Founders of women-led firms like Janice L. Miller, Miri Rossitto, or Jerri Hemmsworth exemplify the shift towards a leadership model rooted in humility, authenticity, and purpose. Their journeys serve as inspiring narratives of resilience and leadership diversity.

Over the past few years, we have also seen the evolution of groups like “Women Founders Network” that opens the doors for more female-led firms in the future. Schools, like Granada Hills Charter High School, have launched “Women In Business” programs to teach young ladies how to evaluate themselves and approach the workforce with more confidence and experience. 

Despite these achievements and milestones, women still represent the minority in leadership roles within most industries. But the change to push past these barriers continues to move forward and gain momentum. There is so much to be gained from equal representation including lessons from female leaders who paved the way.

Leadership driven by compassion, empathy, and care are increasingly recognized as strengths, challenging traditional notions of aggressive and autocratic leadership styles.

Adapting and embracing diversity of thought enriches the decision-making process, leading to more creative, thoughtful, and innovative strategies and outcomes.

Diminishing the stereotype of women as primarily suited for administrative roles only fosters a more inclusive and equitable professional environment.

As the service industry continues to evolve, the emphasis on gender equality, diversity, and inclusion promises a more dynamic and responsive industry capable of meeting the needs of its clientele. Though much has been achieved in almost a half a decade, the journey towards increasing representation through elevating women’s leadership roles is still an ongoing process, with trailblazing women paving the way for future generations.

Stacey McKinnon, CFP,  is Chief Operating Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Partner at Morton Wealth in Calabasas. She can be reached at (818) 222-4727.

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