Redefining Failure

Failure isn’t about the outcome, it’s about not trying- Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx

Only 14.2% of the top five leadership positions at the companies in the S&P 500 are held by women, according to a CNNMoney analysis. Forward momentum is projected to be slow, without educated, capable women in the pipeline or the critical support from professional advocates who are willing to actively campaign for their progression.

In 2013 women held 16.9% of the board seats in the Fortune 500, up from 11.7% in 2000, according to Catalyst. That’s important because these directors are the ones in charge of hiring CEOs and identifying future leaders in the pipeline.

It’s been proven that gender diversity in the work-place benefits all, including the bottom line. Companies with a high representation of women board members significantly outperformed those with no female directors, according to a 2011 Catalyst analysis of financial results at Fortune 500 companies. 

Unfortunately, men are more inclined to take risks than women and those who’ve made it big repeat; one of driving factors of their success has been taking risks. This finding has been reproduced in a wide range of studies with researchers pointing to economic and evolutionary reasons. A study by Mara Mather and Nichole R. Lighthall determined that these gender differences are intensified even further under stress. It’s been established that there are gender differences in brain activity involved in determining risks and taking action. As professional arenas often times are laden with stress, this could lead one to believe that women might be too cautious with their decision making.

Societal giants proclaim recurrently the importance of failure:

  • “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” —Robert F. Kennedy
  • “Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.” —Oprah
  • “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

The College of Management at UMass Boston is actively engaged in the support of gender diversity in the academic and professional environment. A study of our graduate student population determined the split to be 54% female, 46% male. UMass Boston offers a number graduate programs to support all prospective students in securing that raise or promotion and turning that ‘failure’ into success!

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