According to research compiled by the Center for American Progress, women hold almost 52% of all professional-level jobs. Yet when it comes to leadership positions, the statistics are rather appalling:
- Only 14.6% of executive officers are women
- Only 8.1% of top earners are women
- Only 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women
- And women hold only 16.9% of Fortune 500 board seats
While as a country we did experience significant improvement in this arena in 70s and 80s, it began to slow by the 90s, and now is quite stalled.
In fact, the Center for American Progress’s report ends with this cautionary note:
“…at the current rate of change, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in our country.”
Given the renewed momentum of late, we’re sure you’re familiar with the statistics and also with the impact women in leadership roles have on the bottom line. But just in case, here’s a very short synopsis from a new Anita Borg Institute report, The Case for Investing in Women:
Numerous studies demonstrate that companies that place a priority on hiring women manifest higher organizational and financial performance. The link is clear: Organizations with more women in key roles are better equipped to create products and services that meet the needs of the market – which has a direct positive impact on the bottom line.
But whether you have or haven’t read the latest research, one thing is certain:
It’s time to stop measuring the problem and start solving it.
Even more, it’s time to do it for selfish reasons – to benefit ourselves and our own companies. So, here are three things we can do to shrink the gap and increase our company’s performance in the process:
Three Things We Can All Do to
Shrink the Women’s Leadership Gap
Study Our Own Stats
How do our own company’s gender statistics compare with the national data? More importantly, where do we want our percentage to be? Understanding where our companies really stand in terms of gender representation is an important first step for initiating change. If your company happens to be above the average, great. If not, you simply have something to important to consider.
Police Our Own Policies
Today, no one in their right mind would argue against hiring more women. But it’s not so important that we state out loud our stance on hiring women. What matters is whether or not the actual policies and programs our companies put forward are attractive to women. This covers everything from more flexible work arrangements to services provided to employees within the workplace. The fact is that if we make our companies attractive to women, we will have the best women leaders beating down our doors. Not to mention, we’ll be modeling the future of the workplace for our peers. In short, it’s time to design a workplace experience that supports everyone involved in growing our companies.
Demand (and Nurture) Difference
With all the focus on equality between the sexes, valuable differences between the genders have been ignored. The very differences that result in women being strong leaders – passion, entrepreneurship, a love for inspiring others and more. It’s not that men don’t have these traits, it’s simply that they are highly natural in women and often labeled in the corporate world as being “too emotional.” But now that we know these traits have significant value in the business arena, we need to embrace and support them when they show up. We need to instill in our cultures a deep respect for female traits generally – and whether they’re being exhibited by a woman or a man.
Secure the C-Level & Seek the Seat on the Board
If you’re a woman in a leadership position, you’re part of the solution. But there’s still more to do. Making yourself known in the business community, continuing to seek out new board positions and making sure that if your skills are at the C-level you have the title to match impacts more than your own success – it closes the gap for everyone. If you’re a man, simply continuing to support the efforts of the women leaders around you is all that’s needed.