Why is it important for women to be leaders? Realistically, women will not achieve equality until half of our leaders are women. Since the top decision makers implement strategies, create opportunities and essentially hold the majority of the power, without equal representation at the top, women get left behind. Currently women hold less than 30% of senior management roles. Across all Fortune 500 companies, only 5% of CEOs are women. Women on executive boards are the same, less than 20%. Why is that?
It has been well researched and documented that companies with gender diversity perform better financially. The International Labour Organization (ILO) found 57% of companies surveyed in their Women in Business and Management report agreed that gender diversity initiatives improved business outcomes, with nearly 75% tracking gender diversity in their management reporting profit increases of more than 5% up to 20%. 57% of companies said it was easier to attract and retain talent, and 54% saw improvements in creativity, innovation and openness. With these stats, there seems to be no drawback to having more women in executive positions. Yet the gaps persist.
57% of companies said it was easier to attract and retain talent, and 54% saw improvements in creativity, innovation and openness.
We can see that it will not happen organically. If you want to increase the women leadership in your team, you need a strategy and time, effort and a dedicated mindset should be applied to reaching that goal. When done intentionally, the success is measurable.
In 2019, Bank of America was named the Catalyst Award winner for its progress towards equality of women in its workforce. More than 50% of its global workforce are women, while women are more than 40% of its managers and global management team. Even its board of directors scores more than 10% better than global numbers with 31% representation in women. How do they do it? The bank invests heavily in programs to diversify its workforce, from hiring, training and promoting women. Their Women’s Executive Development Program approaches the issue in a number of ways by offering a 10-month experience, which includes assessments, in-person and ongoing virtual development sessions, executive sponsorship and local market engagement opportunities to advance the careers of female participants. This success story shows us that with a good women executive strategy in place, companies can increase their numbers of female leaders at all levels.
There are plenty of strategies to help increase diversity in management, here are a few ways companies can start developing a senior manager/executive track for women:
- Adopt a talent management strategy that examines current trends and biases and proposes actions to get more diversity in management.
- Start tracking your statistics, set tangible goals, measure success and look for solutions where you are not meeting expected objectives.
- C-Suite executives should actively engage in mentoring high potential women and staff from other under-represented groups.
- Implement a training strategy for the talent pipeline that includes leadership, management, and decision making courses and design opportunities to give women practice in adopting those skills.
- Revamp the hiring strategy to include women candidates for every position and ensure interviewers and hiring managers are equally matched along gender lines.
- Enforce flexible work strategies that allow your workforce to adjust their work hours and work from home when needed.
- Create opportunities to foster networking and coaching between your executive team and the entire company and ensure these are cross-gender events and activities.
When companies make equality a priority, women advance in their ranks. When men are actively involved in helping women achieve equality, everybody wins. This will not happen organically. Dedicated effort towards getting women into leadership is needed but the payoff is well worth it. At every level.
“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” — Michelle Obama