What’s Women’s Role in the Knowledge Economy?

With women comprising half the U.S. workforce, 57 percent of household breadwinners, and 50 percent of business owners, the economic recovery depends largely on women’s productivity and innovation.

Now a new book by Apollo Research Institute —the research arm of Apollo Group, which owns University of Phoenix and other education providers—presents research to show how women are redefining career paths and helping organizations emerge stronger out of the recession.

Women Lead: Career Perspectives from Workplace Leaders identifies the six fastest-growing sectors that offer women on-ramps to career advancement: business services, education, healthcare, information technology, nonprofits and manufacturing.

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It also provides extensive career advice for aspiring women leaders and those launching “encore careers” in midlife.

Among the findings:

Women top the charts in key skills.

  • Women outperform men on key leadership competencies, such as communicating, coaching, organizing people, thinking creatively and solving problems.
  • Women also score higher than men on traits that are essential in today’s collaborative work environments, such as empathy, transparency and inclusiveness.

Women and younger workers are driving new leadership models.

  • Generations X and Y perceive a smaller “gender gap” among workplace leaders than Boomers do.
  • Women demonstrate the career paths and leadership styles that younger generations favor.

Women are turning the career ladder into a labyrinth.

  • 58 percent of women leaders describe their career paths as “nonlinear.”
  • 87 percent of women executives and managers shift career paths in midlife.

Continuous education is key to career development.

  • 90% of jobs in high-growth industries require at least some postsecondary education.
  • Managers rank education as the most important activity needed for leadership in their industries.

“Women leaders often stand out for their relationship-building skills,” says the book’s lead editor, Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, vice president and managing director of Apollo Research Institute. “But our findings highlight how women also excel as negotiators, risk-takers and entrepreneurs.”

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For Women Lead, researchers at Apollo Research Institute interviewed more than 200 women executives and surveyed more than 3,100 male and female managers to discover the leadership skills and career strategies that help women make their work lives more satisfying and their organizations more competitive.

Apollo Research Institute and University of Phoenix are taking the research findings on the road by working with leading organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, chambers of commerce, and the nonprofit MBA Women International, to conduct expert panel events in more than 20 U.S. cities.

The tour includes a panel discussion and book signing at The Strand bookstore in New York City on Tuesday, March 12 from 7 to 9 pm.

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Rakesh Raman