I've been lucky enough to have a lot of experience working with strong female leaders, both in the old world of corporates and in the new more enlightened world of 21st century business.

From my experience, I've seen fabulously talented, intuitive, empathic, hard working and inspirational people blocked from progress by traditional company structures that focus solely on shareholder value. 

Not all of them women, but an overwhelmingly majority were.

Too often, I've also seen a horrible change happen with female executives who have reached board level, to become more masculine and aggressive and lose all of the warmth and empathy they had. 

I'd personally like to blame Margaret Thatcher for that attitude. 'Get to the top table and pull the ladder up behind you' - she didn't exactly further the cause of feminism, it was more like she created a 'strong female' role model that dominated and stifled a generation.

It feels completely counter to the intuitive and collaborative nature of women in business, that appears to me to be one of the defining factors of the great new businesses that are growing today.

Our businesses and our society need more strong and capable female leaders, who use intuition and empathy to inspire and move people, regardless of their gender.

Just looking around our office, on any given day, I can see women in passionate conversations that are really changing the way we deliver value, for the better. Collaboration, respect and honesty are driving those changes.

I believe that there is a really important role for men in this too, and that's to understand feminism better, look at the damage inequality causes in business, and guard against the 'traditional' male-oriented view of the world taking hold in your team. 

Empathy, compassion and collaboration are not exclusively female traits, but they are too often devalued in business to a detrimental, and sometimes devastating effect.

It may be a long way off before equality is truly and properly accepted in business, but I hope that it is possible to get there much sooner for those who try.

There's a great article below talking about the data that might just help this shift to happen sooner, and some positive ideas on future leadership.