Why the Fifth Industrial Revolution Needs Women Leaders

The Fifth Industrial Revolution (5IR) is likely to reshape how we live and work forever.  But to survive and thrive in this new era, gender-diverse senior leadership is going to be more important than ever.

What is the Fifth Industrial Revolution?

If you aren’t familiar with the term, the 5IR represents a transformative era where human creativity and digital technology collaborate. It’s not about turning humans into machines or vice versa, but rather about creating a synergy where each complements the other’s strengths.

“It’s not just about the technology as a standalone, but rather in context. Addressing the risks and benefits of AI MUST be done by a diverse set of stakeholders backed by a diverse leadership, or the full context in which these technologies are being developed and deployed will not be adequately considered. We must ensure that AI benefits the many, not just the elite few, and for that, we need a diverse and cross-disciplinary set of stakeholders to be involved in every phase of the AI lifecycle,” says Christina Montgomery, Chief Privacy & Trust Officer at IBM, and WeQual Award winner. 

How the AI-Human Synergy Works

Imagine a scenario where Sarah, a senior leader in a Fortune 500 company, is tasked with guiding her company’s expansion into new, culturally diverse markets. Here’s where the blend of AI and human intelligence plays a crucial role. AI steps in to handle the heavy lifting of data analysis, sifting through vast market data to pinpoint trends, consumer behaviors, and potential for growth, offering Sarah quantitative insights that form a solid base for decision-making.

However, data alone isn’t enough. This is where Sarah’s expertise shines. She takes the AI’s findings and adds layers of creative strategy. Sarah has the ability to understand cultural nuances and ethical considerations that AI just can’t grasp. Sarah’s emotional intelligence becomes invaluable as she builds relationships with global business leaders and customers, something AI can’t even begin to replicate. 

Sarah is like the captain of the ship, using AI as her compass but steering based on her deep understanding of human emotions and ethics. The result? A market expansion strategy that’s not only smart and data-driven but also culturally sensitive and ethically sound. That’s how AI works in harmony with human insight and creativity.

It sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

But beyond embracing technological advancements, this is a chance to redefine leadership and innovation. Multiple studies show women leaders have the inherent skills to be pivotal in this transformation.

Why the 5IR Needs More Women Leaders

The report Diversity wins from McKinsey shows that companies with more women in top roles, especially when they make up more than 30% of the executive team, are more profitable and competitive. This is absolutely vital for the Fifth Industrial Revolution, where being able to adapt and innovate will be key to success.

Women leaders – as well as excelling in technical and commercial skills – are often  better than their male peers at the softer skills like leading with a creative mindset,  emotional self-awareness, the ability to create strong, empathic connections, and inclusive teams. 

This helps build a forward-thinking culture in companies, which will be especially important in the new era of 5IR. A study by IE Insights shows that Female entrepreneurship and the presence of women on management teams has a positive influence on the social motivations and achievements of organizations.

These leadership skills not only ensure employees are more motivated and productive but also shape how companies manage their people and their ethics. This is a big shift from traditionally male-led models that were results-driven and focused on external factors like acquisitions.

In high-stakes situations, which are inevitable in the fast-changing world of 5IR, women’s leadership is especially important. A report from UN Women shows that women are great at well-considered, effective decision making during crises, like the global pandemic. Women’s different viewpoints and inclusive ways of doing things are crucial for dealing with complex problems, and helping to rebuild, which is a big part of what 5IR is all about.

In short, the 5IR doesn’t just benefit from having women leaders, it needs them if the corporate world is to survive. Women’s skills in driving economic success, creating innovative and sustainable ways of working, and managing crises are exactly what this new, changing era is crying out for.

Beyond embracing technological advancements, this is a chance to redefine leadership and innovation. Multiple studies show women leaders have the inherent skills to be pivotal in this transformation.

Become Your Company’s Greatest Asset

Given how invaluable women leaders are already proving to be, as we enter this next industrial revolution, what can they do to become their organization’s best asset?

Be innovative: Women have the power to think outside the box and bring new ideas to life. Create a space where creativity is Queen and every voice is heard. Remember, ideas don’t have a hierarchy

Network like a boss: it’s all about who women leaders know, and understanding different viewpoints. Connections with tech gurus, executive coaches, and peers across industries, are all goldmines for fresh insights and opportunities.

Champion inclusive tech: as tech integrates into every aspect of our lives, it’s crucial that it speaks for everyone. Women leaders need to be vocal in building technology that’s fair and accessible. From AI ethics to policy-making, their voice matters.

Lead with agility: change is the only constant. Be someone who embraces new ideas, experiments with emerging tech, and encourages your teams to stay flexible and visionary.

Remember, senior women leaders are not just adapting to the 5IR; they’re driving it. Climb aboard, lead the charge and shape a future that’s innovative, inclusive, and absolutely unstoppable. So, what will you do to secure your place as a vital cog in the 5IR?

At WeQual, we’re on a mission to drive gender equality at the top of the world’s largest organizations. To find out more about joining an exclusive, global, peer-led community for senior women leaders, visit our membership page.

Thanks to our Guest Contributor:

Christina Montgomery

Chief Privacy & Trust Officer at IBM

Christina is also a WeQual Executive and Winner of the WeQual Awards, AMER 2021 in the Commercial Innovation category.

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