The organization of the most successful Russian businesswomen
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Expert Opinion

Similar studies of corporate female executives conducted internationally.

Globalisation, lower growth rates to which we’ve become accustomed on the Russian market, and more demanding clients have challenged companies to seek out new sources for sustainable growth, retention of key advantages and the creation of innovative solutions. In their daily work, executives frequently face the ever-changing preferences of those employees searching for more than just ways to make a living – opportunities for selfactualization. The rise of leaders like Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, who have sprung from different social and economic backgrounds, may be an indication of a new trend in management.

Despite a deeply rooted historical and cultural background, the multinational and polyconfessional Russian society with its brilliant examples of country/company leadership has yet to offer enough space for diversity in management styles. It is often difficult to understand the phenomena of group dynamics resulting in a woman executive always having to win trust. Her weaknesses are more evident than her achievements and the amount of work exceeds that of her colleagues, which overall decreases efficiency of work.

A research conducted by Committee 20 implies there are “unwritten” standards and rules in the corporate world in Russia today as well as certain types of leadership and motivation set in place. In the United States women executives will speak of the pleasure and importance of the work they do, whereas in our country, executives will aspire to freedom and independence both professionally and financially. Can it be indirect evidence of prevalent management style when only the boss decides what should be done and how to do it, and a possible answer to the question why do we lose a significant number of ambitious female mid-level managers on a way up the corporate ladder?

Another major difference arising from this research is the relatively little importance of mentorship in Russia. Numerous international organizations offer mentorship programs and support teams for women employees in the company. However, a formal approach to mentorship, to implementation of programs increasing women personnel in the company and disintegration of women community from men most likely prevents us from reaching corporate goals – retaining talents, preparing and promoting them to higher positions. The example comes to mind of an organization intentionally deciding to recruit new women employees. This strategy increased their female staff by 40% and resulted in creating a homogeneous structure of women in the company but did not contribute to promoting women to the top level positions.

Despite the differences, many similarities exist between concepts of female leadership in various geographic markets. For instance, money is not the main factor for career development (on average, this factor is rarely higher than the third most important factor on the list). However, for many corporate female executives, business is about ensuring independence, financial stability and a due level of family living standards for women in Russia, but also India, Saudi Arabia, Africa or the United States.

Family is a very important factor for women executives irrespective of geographic factors. During a conversation on the topic, a woman executive in a leading Indian company admitted that she could make corporate decisions easily but when it came down to family, she would fully depend on opinion of the family members. Being unable to relocate to the head office with the family due to disagreements with a husband was a stumbling block for a Russian colleague – an executive in an international cosmetic company. Standards and rules instilled by society in family, kindergarten, school and university are a powerful matrix that determines the actions of a top manager. Is it the best matrix? Does it stimulate the development of leadership potential or create a glass ceiling which leads to the gradual fading of career interest?

Having looked through the details of such research, I found some straightforward comments that stroked me the most. The attitudes uncovered speak of challenges faced by “the pioneers” – women, “stalkers” who became executives in major corporations during “the first wave” of the new Russia: “Be ruthless to your subordinates”, “don’t look for close friends at work” – these recommendations speak of the tough conditions in the world of top management. In other words, it’s not enough for you to work hard and be a smart leader, you must also have to understand the rules of the game and be ready to fight. Thanks to such women, our generation has been passed the torch and responsibility for creating a renewed corporate world, as though in a relay race that both male and female executives participate in and shape for successors to come. It is to our mutual benefit that this corporate world should become more efficient, functional and encourage the promotion of self-actualization and use of different management styles.

This research invites to dialogue, building trust and experimentation. By learning to accept and effectively use gender-specific behavior, it becomes much easier to apply a different approach to decision-making processes in the corporate world. Good luck to all of us along this journey.39

Svetlana Korshunova,
Senior Project Manager,

The Monitor Group;

head of Women’s Leadership Initiative
of the Monitor Group’s Moscow office