October 8th marks the 44th year that we’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day… 42 if you want to wait for the UNs official invitation to member states to proclaim March 8th as the UN Day for women’s rights (and world peace) in 1977. As I reflect back over my time in the workforce I’d say we’ve come a long way in business, just not far enough.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a leadership role that drives women’s initiatives in my organization and it’s given me access to some brilliant men and women committed to diversity in the workplace. And while there is a significant gender gap in leadership on the global stage, anecdotally the issue for women in my orbit isn’t at the top or the bottom, it’s in the middle. Less women make the jump from individual contributor roles into leadership roles and there are a lot of reasons for it. Maybe they don’t see a mentor that looks like them in the ranks above. Maybe they don’t know how to balance as their families start to grow. Maybe they don’t feel like they can do the job. Our businesses need mentors and managers, policies and processes to combat these realities. We shouldn’t do this because it’s the right thing to do (though it is), we should do it because it’s better for business. Companies that have diverse points of view making decisions, contributing to ideation, solving problems . . . they just do better.
When Fortune-500 companies were ranked by the number of women directors on their boards, those in the highest quartile in 2009 reported a 42 percent greater return on sales and a 53 percent higher return on equity than the rest.
Companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation
Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases
60% of global graduates are now women
And still . . . with all that progress, with all the opportunity in front of us, I capped my proverbial pen from writing this piece and logged into LinkedIn to post. The first title in my news feed? “US lags in working women’s equality.”
Come on people. We can do better.
When I look at my tribe, I have a wonderfully eclectic mix of men and women who make up the professional board I tap into for anything I need. But not everyone has that luxury and it’s why, as leaders, we need to relentlessly pursue policies, processes and procedures that balance the scales to ensure a diverse workforce, that’s better for our people, and better for our business. In 2019, what will you do to drive diversity in your culture?