In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, the importance of business acumen cannot be overstated. It serves as a cornerstone for making informed decisions, driving growth, and achieving success in any professional setting.
According to a report from the Career Advisory Board, 65% of business leaders believed a lack of business acumen was holding their organisations back.
For women in particular, developing strong business acumen is not only important but also essential to close the leadership gender gap.
What is Business Acumen?
Business acumen is defined as the ability to recognise the overall picture of an organisation, understand all functional areas and the interdependencies between them, and understand how decisions in one department impact others and the business (Niagara Institute). It is a critical leadership attribute that manifests itself in the questions people ask and the decisions they make.
In essence, it’s the ability to see the bigger picture, connect the dots, and make informed decisions that drive a company’s success.
Why is Business Acumen Important for Women?
Business acumen is a universal skill that holds immense value for both men and women in the workplace. However, its significance becomes even more pronounced for women due to historical barriers and systemic biases that have often hindered their advancement.
- Women with strong business acumen can showcase their strategic thinking and decision-making abilities, thereby challenging preconceived notions about their capabilities.
- Business acumen provides women with the confidence to make well-informed decisions, navigate complex situations and advocate for their ideas.
- As women ascend the corporate ladder, strong business acumen becomes a non-negotiable skill. Business acumen equips them with the skills to analyse intricate situations, develop effective strategies, and lead teams toward achieving organisational goals.
- Business acumen empowers women to negotiate confidently and persuasively. Whether it’s salary negotiations or high-stakes business deals, a solid understanding of market dynamics and financial implications can greatly influence favorable outcomes.
- Women with strong business acumen can identify market gaps, spot emerging trends, and drive innovation within their organizations.
- A solid foundation in business acumen helps women gain credibility among their peers, superiors, and subordinates. It demonstrates their ability to contribute meaningfully to strategic discussions and decision-making processes.
How Can Women Develop Business Acumen?
In a recent masterclass, the IgniteHer team shared practical ways women can develop business acumen. These include:
- Learn to love the numbers. It is crucial to understand numbers and how they work to show your depth of knowledge, assess the company’s financial health and make informed decisions.
- Focus on what matters most. It is important to focus on what matters most to the organisation and not lose sight of achieving the strategic business objectives.
- Develop strategic thinking. Having high-level technical abilities does not always result in being viewed as a leader. Women need to think strategically in order to be considered for top-level leadership.
- Gain exposure to different departments within the organization. Collaborating with teams like finance, marketing, and operations broadens one’s understanding of how different functions contribute to the overall success of the business.
- Seek challenging assignments: Taking on new responsibilities exposes women to different aspects of the business and allows them to develop problem-solving skills that are crucial for business acumen.
- Keep up with industry trends. By following industry news, market trends, and competitor movements, one gains insights to anticipate changes, identify opportunities, and make proactive decisions.
- Seek guidance from mentors and role models who have demonstrated strong business acumen. Their experiences and advice can not only enhance one’s business acumen but also open doors to new opportunities.
Business acumen is a pivotal skill that empowers women to thrive in the modern workplace. It provides them with the strategic insight and confidence needed to navigate complex challenges, make informed decisions, and lead with authority.