What the Political Conventions Reveal About Women Leaders

Seeing parts of both the Republican and Democratic political conventions over the past two weeks, it struck me just how dynamic and strong women’s voices have become in our political leadership.

I’m thrilled to see strong women leaders highlighted in prime time speeches. Michelle Obama, Condoleezza Rice, and Ann Romney (among many others) all spoke eloquently, and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords showed great grace and courage in leading the pledge of allegiance.

I’ve heard that both parties are trying hard this year to appeal to women voters, which might have impacted the number and timing of the convention speakers. But what I saw wasn’t pandering tokenism, it was a line-up of fabulously accomplished, intelligent, confident women stepping forward and being featured by parties proud to claim them. I saw women who had worked hard and over many years to ascend to Governorships, key Cabinet positions, and leadership posts.

It’s worth noting that just over a century ago, women weren’t even allowed to serve as delegates to National Political Conventions. Republicans first allowed women delegates in 1892, Democrats in 1908.  Today, they’re giving keynote speeches.

The rise of women in politics is the most recent example of the incremental progress I talked about last week. When many of the speakers from the conventions started their careers, the kind of line-up we just witnessed probably seemed more a dream than a reality. After years of hard work, a series of small successes in their personal lives and careers led them to the remarkable position we saw them in last week.

It’s not just at conventions where women are taking leadership roles. Women’s voices are being heard in state and federal governments, corporate boardrooms, and in church halls. And it’s not just women who are benefiting.

Greater involvement by women leaders has been shown to be a boost to organizations in the corporate world.  In a study published in March 2011, Catalyst research center found that Companies with at least three or more women directors (sustained over at least four of five years) significantly outperformed companies with no female board representation. The more diverse companies had an 84% higher return on sales, a 60% higher return on invested capital, and a 46% higher return on equity.

If you have a dream of becoming a leader where you work or in your church, believe that it can happen. But don’t wait on someone else to change things for you. Look for opportunities where you can both serve and grow.

If you’re inspired, please consider joining a 4word chapter or take the lead and start one yourself. I believe that 4word can be a catalyst to bring to boardrooms and org charts the kind of line-ups and authority we just witnessed from our nation’s women leaders at the conventions.