Shopping Cart


No products in the cart.


We're Building the World's BIGGEST Online Community for Small Businesses

The key to finally closing the gender leadership gap


Now that we’ve resumed normal transmission after the flurry of annual International Women’s Day events and reporting on employer gender pay gas in Australia, I want to revisit the conversation about how to close the leadership gender gaps in organisations.

Gender disparity in leadership positions remains a persistent challenge. If executives are serious about closing the leadership gender gap, they must recognise that traditional leadership development programs and conventional career advice given to women don’t cut it. Why? Most leadership development programs are centred on the development needs of men and need to recognise the specific development needs of women.  

Closing the leadership gender gap requires a fundamental change in how development programs for women are designed and implemented, and yes, there is a formula for doing just that. 

Closing the Leadership Gender Gap Has a Formula

The most in-demand leaders in the 21st-century organisation will have and be known for having BQ + EQ + SQ leadership skills, which also happens to be The Advancing Women Formula. 

Business Intelligence (BQ) + Emotional Intelligence (EQ) + Social Intelligence (SQ) = The Advancing Women Formula 

The Advancing Women Formula encapsulates the multifaceted nature of leadership. It is a set of skills, behaviours and attributes that can be learned, practised and mastered. 

You might think that a three-part leadership equation means that women have to have all three parts equal in measure. This is not true. The critical component of the formula is Business Intelligence (BQ), which, despite being the prerequisite skill set for advancement to executive and C-suite roles, needs to be emphasised more in women’s leadership development programs, career advice, mentoring, and coaching. 

What is BQ?

BQ represents a deep understanding of the business environment, including business, strategic and financial acumen, and success orientation. 

BQ skills mean understanding how a business functions, generates income, and achieves growth is crucial for any business leader. Strategic acumen is the ability to create and execute long-term plans for the business. This requires seeing the bigger picture and the long-term implications of your decisions. Additionally, you must be proficient in implementing these plans and adjusting strategies to ensure success. Financial acumen is the ability to comprehend the economic performance of a business and derive insights from the numbers. You should be able to read and analyse the financial and performance metrics of the organisation and take action based on your understanding.

Success orientation refers to the attributes and behaviours leaders exhibit to achieve goals, drive performance, and instil a culture of success within their team or organisation. Such leaders are clear about what they aim to achieve. They set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals and communicate them to their team.

Why is BQ important?

BQ skills comprise nearly 60% of the competencies required by executives and up to 80% of the skills needed by C-suite executives. 

Business Intelligence (BQ) is essential for professional success, especially for women who want to advance to senior leadership positions. However, despite this crucial requirement, less than 3% of the career advice, coaching, and literature aimed at women focus on developing this essential skill. This lack of attention to critical skill set development is a significant barrier for women who aspire to reach top leadership roles in their organisations.

Furthermore, my research indicates a startling disconnect in the career advice given to women. In a survey conducted with women in middle management at an ASX-listed company in 2023, an overwhelming 98% reported that their best career advice had little to do with building and demonstrating their business skills. This gap in guidance is alarming and highlights the need for a shift in focus towards developing women’s BQ alongside EQ and SQ.

The Call to Action

The Advancing Women Formula (BQ + EQ + SQ) is not just a theory; it’s a call to action. Closing the leadership gender gap means women must be recognised for all their leadership skills, including BQ.  

To foster BQ, employers must:

Create Strategic Mentoring and Sponsorship Programs for Women: Establish mentorship and sponsorship programs to transfer business intelligence knowledge to women and proactively accelerate women’s career advancement.

Inclusive Decision-Making: Women should be included in strategic decision-making forums to foster their business acumen and ensure that diverse insights influence business strategies.

Targeted Training: Provide specialised training programs focused on developing business intelligence skills relevant to women’s career advancement.

Cultivate Inclusive Leadership: Promote a leadership culture that values women’s perspectives, encourages equitable access to critical skills training, and supports managers in developing DEI skills. 

Closing the gender leadership gap requires more than a once a yeat focus when gender pay gap reporting is released, or when International Women’s Day rolls around. It demands a comprehensive approach to women’s leadership development that places appropriate emphasis on BQ, EQ, and SQ as well as addressing the gendered nature of career advice that hasn’t closed the gap so far.  

Michelle Redfern is the author of The Leadership Compass, available now:

Keep up to date with our stories on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.


Leave a Reply