Increased Innovation: Kelcee Blue Explains How Women Lead Change in Finance
Who are the pioneering women changing the field of finance? Kelcee Blue, a top financial manager, leads this charge as Director of Strategic Finance at small- and medium-sized business (SMB) growth strategy advisory and venture-debt consulting firm Embarc Advisors.
For Blue, incorporating more women into leadership positions in the finance world promises a wide range of benefits. “Women in leadership create better decisions, better cultures, better companies, and a better future,” she says.
Indeed, studies bear this claim out. According to Harvard Business Review, “Research has shown that firms with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences — among many other benefits.”
Women’s leadership improves corporate decision-making
According to Blue, the most important advantage women’s leadership brings is that it improves corporate decision-making. “If only half of our world’s population is represented in the group leading the charge to identify problems and create solutions, the potential outcomes are limited to what they can imagine,” Blue explains. “By breaking up the traditional ‘boys club,’ you create an opportunity for all to speak up and share different perspectives.”
According to Blue, women are essential participants in leadership decisions precisely because they offer this kind of alternative perspective.
Women offer new perspectives
“Women leaders bring different life experiences and viewpoints to the table than male executives,” Blue explains. “This diversity of thought leads to more comprehensive and innovative problem-solving.” In short, when C-Suites only include male executives, they can have blind spots that steer them toward suboptimal choices.
To the extent companies welcome women to share their perspectives, they also benefit from women’s insight into crucial consumer groups, like female consumers. Women’s economic power has been increasing, and women are anticipated to inherit a disproportionate share of baby boomers’ wealth over the next few years. Meanwhile, women have long made household purchasing decisions over most consumer products, making access to women’s insights indispensable.
If that wasn’t enough, Blue observes that many women share positive characteristics that contribute to business success.
Women bring more empathetic leadership
“Women have a unique perspective,” Blue explains. “We often prioritize diversity, empathy, corporate governance, and risk management, all of which can improve company performance and culture.”
According to Blue, women’s values often lead them to employ transformational and empathetic leadership styles, which studies have shown to be more effective than authoritarian leadership. Research also verifies that women tend to demonstrate these transformational and empathetic approaches more than male leaders. For this reason, many women shine in leadership positions.
Blue also suggests that women’s leadership increases employee engagement and retention and improves the team’s creative-thinking ability. Research agrees. A classic study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that groups that contained more women had higher collective intelligence — the ability to work together and solve problems — than those with fewer.
Women tend to be risk-averse
According to Blue, many female leaders also benefit from a mindset of “healthy conservatism” that avoids exposing their organizations to unnecessary risk. “This kind of foresight is crucial to good financial decision-making,” she says. “Studies have shown that greater gender diversity in companies’ leadership correlates with having better risk management strategies.”
Indeed, researchers have found that women do more due diligence and weigh decisions more carefully than their male peers. In addition, they are more likely to admit what they do not know and seek expert guidance. Due to factors like these, the quality of the decisions they ultimately reach tends to be superior.
Blue also points out that “women leaders are often at the forefront of pushing for investments that not only yield financial returns, but also create positive social impact.” In this way, having women in leadership positions enables companies to improve their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Women: Prepare to be decision-makers
Given the advantages of having women in leadership positions, businesses should cultivate and empower more of these employees. That’s why Blue believes more women in leadership is the wave of the future. “Industry needs women in decision-making positions to continue innovating and adapting for a successful future,” she says.
For young women or girls who aspire to become finance leaders themselves, Blue has the following advice: “Don’t let fear or self-doubt keep you from realizing your full potential.”
In particular, she advises women and girls to confront imposter syndrome head-on. “To move up in the ranks and ultimately take on leadership roles, you must consistently raise your hand for projects you may not feel ready for,” she explains. “The only way you will learn and grow is by tackling new challenges, which will sometimes be uncomfortable. There is a real confidence gap between men and women — don’t let imposter syndrome limit your potential.”
She also counsels learning from experienced leaders you respect. “A great boss is worth so much more than great pay early in your career,” she says. “You need strong mentorship that can help you develop. Identify leaders in your organization or network that you look up to and be intentional about learning from them. Study how they lead, make decisions, and approach problems in their day-to-day work.”
Finally, she advises being authentic and leveraging your unique strengths. “Successful leaders can take many shapes and forms,” she says. “Don’t buckle under pressure to conform to a certain leadership style or embody certain characteristics. You will be most effective when you are true to yourself.”
Create the space for change
“Women in leadership positions create the space for change,” Blue says. “Sometimes we lead the change ourselves directly. Sometimes, just our presence makes it possible.” Either way, letting women into the C-Suite benefits organizations themselves. That’s why the world needs more pioneering women leaders like Kelcee Blue.