4111819051_91bb447a12_oIt seems that the global financial crisis is prompting a wide-ranging re-think on the role of women in leadership. The Shriver Report indicated that, in total, the US working populations are balancing out – with women now comprising 50% of the total for the first time ever. Yet, as Vivek Wadhwa points out, “There are too few women running high-tech companies; that’s too bad, considering evidence shows female-led businesses outperform those run by men.”

But rather than waiting for the structural impact of women’s workforce participation to take effect at senior levels, women are, instead, taking matters into their own hands. Support networks and groups are being formed such as Women 2.0, Young Women Social Entrepreneurs and the Blogher network – complete with mentoring opportunities, professional networking events and conferences – and all this effort is now beginning to bear fruit.

Research by Cindy Padnos, managing director of Illuminate Ventures, indicates that the performance of women in the enterprise – especially in startup businesses – has significant benefits. Not only are the high-tech companies that  women build more capital-efficient than the norm (with higher revenues and less committed capital), there are fewer failures:

As the global economy regenerates, new business models are needed to stimulate economic and job growth. Investors seeking to reinvigorate bottom-line performance and to favorably impact the entrepreneurial strength of our economy would be wise to support strategies that enable high-tech start-ups that are inclusive of women entrepreneurs.

But what it the opportunity for leaders? First, we need to acknowledge that we are not facing a recession – but a reset (as John Hope Bryant suggests). Next we need to look to those women in our management ranks who are already leaders in their fields. We need to support them and mentor them in the way that the grass roots social networks are doing. And we need to actively plan for their success and succession.

Nina Nets It Out: The statistics are starting to tell the tale – but despite clear economic and professional benefit, there is still a dearth of senior roles available for women. Smart business leaders will proactively support the transition of women leaders into more senior roles – and those that do will reap the rewards.

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