Women in Leadership: Gaining the Competitive Advantage
Technology has given business owners the opportunity to sell their goods and services to a global audience - to infinity and beyond, right? This not only presents big opportunities for business owners, but also poses new challenges in connecting in a meaningful way with a diverse client population. This diversity isn’t just confined to a geographic location, but also includes a diverse population - gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, family status, marital status, and a host of other things that make you uniquely you regardless of where you live on the planet.
Considering all the things that make us unique consumers, it can be a tall order for organizations to connect on a deeper level with a diverse client base if their organization isn’t diverse in who it employs. Not only can this diverse group of leaders in your organization provide better insight into a wide variety of customers’ needs, wants and desires; they can also assist in attracting key employees from a diverse talent pool. Doing business successfully in a global market requires a global mindset and what better way to accomplish this then by embracing diversity in your organization?
Economics: Women in Leadership
As discussed above, there are just as many things that diversity is comprised of and make us unique as there are people on this earth. For the sake of this blog post, we will focus on just one of those areas of diversity - women, and the role they play in leadership and how it can positively impact an economy and an organization on multiple levels. For starters, let’s talk a little bit about women as consumers and leaders and the impact that has on an economy:
According to an article in Forbes titled The Top 10 Things People Should Know about Women, “Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence. Influence means that even when a woman isn’t paying for something herself, she is often the influence or veto vote behind someone else’s.” Along with making all these purchasing decisions, the article goes on to share that women are making multi-generational purchasing decisions as well for their children, elderly parents/in-laws and friends.
The International Monetary Fund published a report titled Pursuing Women’s Economic Empowerment, on May 30, 2018. In this report they state, “Greater gender equality boosts economic growth and leads to better development outcomes. It contributes to reducing income inequality and boosting economic diversification and, in turn, supports economic resilience.”
The UNWomen.org’s Facts & Figures: Economic Empowerment confirmed through research that women’s economic equality is good specifically for business, too: “Companies greatly benefit from increasing employment and leadership opportunities for women, which is shown to increase organizational effectiveness and growth. It is estimated that companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher in all dimensions of organizational performance.”
Leading: By the Numbers
With all the research and data on how economies prosper and organizations are more successful when they embrace diversity (namely women for this discussion), does this mean the glass ceiling is shattered in the business world and we’re finally ready to reach equality among the genders in the workplace? Unfortunately, not quite yet.
There are signs of progress and many women have worked hard and are to be admired for their accomplishments. It does help to see strong women in leading roles (think Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation/previously Microsoft, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post, Amy Pascal of Sony Pictures Entertainment), especially as young girls look around at their world and decide what they want to do when they grow up. But we still have a long way to go.
Let’s check a few numbers - keep in mind that women comprise 50.8% of the population:
6.6%: There are 33 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 companies as of June 1, 2019. While this sets a new record (!) don’t get too excited because it’s a record of only 6.6% (and it includes one interim female CEO).
11.6%: Of the 2,208 billionaires globally, 256 of them were women in 2018 (also a new record!). 72 of these women earned their riches on their own (as opposed to inheriting it for example).
23.7%: The percentage of female Congresswomen and Senators in the U.S. at the federal level. 102 voting members are female in the House of Representatives and 25 women in the Senate or a collective 127 female votes.
Women are slowly taking more and more leadership roles in the corporate world. However, as the numbers outlined above show, we still have a considerable distance to go in truly embracing gender diversity in the workplace. In a report by McKinsey.com, Why Diversity Matters, they share that organizations who embrace gender diversity in leadership roles are more likely to perform as follows:
Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
Companies in the bottom quartile, both for gender and ethnicity and race, are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies in the data set (that is, bottom-quartile companies are lagging rather than merely not leading).
Not only is it simply the right thing to do, but it’s pretty hard to dispute the performance numbers of the organizations who embrace diversity in the workplace. Again, to tie all this back to economic performance, elevating those who make purchasing decisions to leadership roles not only positively impacts the organization, but also the economy and that impacts all of us - it’s a win/win/win scenario.
What’s Your Solution?
The global economy requires organizations to provide diverse products and solutions - how best to meet those needs and achieve success measures? Start by asking:
Is your organization’s culture is ready to implement a formal diversity and inclusion program? Not sure, ask Human Resources to perform a culture assessment survey and share the results.
Do the leaders in the organization actively recruit and support diversity in leadership roles beyond the front-line managerial level? Easy, just look at the organization’s website for information on the c-suite.
Does your organization provide goods, services and/or solutions to diverse customer base? How well do you understand your customer population?
Does your organization’s mission, vision and values encourage and support a diverse workplace culture? Are leaders continually keeping it alive in discussions and actually living it?
Does your organization offer training such as on culture sensitivity or unconscious bias so everyone develops a better understanding of cultural differences and how their own perceptions may hold them back? Are you open to offering new training?
Does the leadership make an open commitment to their diversity strategy and goals, and exhibit accountability by measuring and reporting on the progress? Is transparency embraced and important information shared across the organization?
Would your organization like to gain a competitive edge in a global marketplace? Diversity is key to making that happen.
Unsure where to start? That’s easy, contact Key Elements Consulting and we can help you get started on building or enhancing your current diversity and inclusion program.
Does your organization have a formal diversity and inclusion program? If so, please share a little bit about your program and how it impacted you and/or your organization!