Books tackle scarcity of U.S. women in leadership

Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:05pm EDT
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Women make up half the U.S. work force these days, yet they remain scarce in the ranks of top business leadership.

That persistent gap, in which women hold no more than 3 percent of chief executive jobs in Fortune 500 companies, is the topic of "How Remarkable Women Lead" by Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston and "Women Lead the Way" by Linda Tarr-Whelan.

Barsh and Cranston study successful women in leadership to find what traits and talents they may share, and Tarr-Whelan argues why and how women should hold leadership positions.

Women who lead are inspired by a sense of meaning in what they do, assess situations in a positive light and know the value of connecting with others, write Barsh and Cranston, both consultants at McKinsey & Co.

Women who lead take risks, face down their fears, speak up and have a strong sense of optimism, which can be learned, Barsh said in an interview.

"All of it is practice," she said.

Critical to the process is finding and recharging energy as well as plugging energy drains -- which is not easy, she said.