NEW YORK – Beyond giving a brand an image boost, achieving greater gender parity among employees and leadership can have an impact on a company’s bottom line.
At Haven Hill’s Symposium on Equality on Oct. 31, speakers conferred about the data behind the need for more gender parity, as well as the ways in which companies can take equality initiatives beyond hollow campaigns. While many organizations recognize the business benefits of gaining more gender diversity in their workforce, truly achieving change revolves around tackling tough topics and shifting culture.
"Millennials want companies that have values, and values are also about diversity," said Yann Borgstedt, founder and president of The Womanity Foundation. "If you want to keep your employees motivated or in your companies, you need to find ways to have more equality and diversity.
"You want to do what is right, but also we want to do what is good for the economy, and if it’s good for the economy, it’s good for kids and it’s good for everyone," he said. "So I just don’t understand why in so many places men feel threatened by giving the same rights and opportunities to women."
Mr. Borgstedt pointed out that while women represent about half of the population, they only hold 21 percent of senior roles and only 3 percent of CEOs are women. Women at the head of startups are also far less apt to get funding than men, despite the fact that female-led ventures tend to see better returns.
The data also shows that having more gender diversity at a company will help employers attract value-based millennials, while also boosting retention.
According to media organization Politico’s CEO Patrick Steel, his biggest challenge is recruitment, particularly because most Washington residents are already employed. Increasing the number of women in leadership positions at the publication has allowed the company to attract more female staff on both the editorial and sales sides.
Women who work for a female manager are 30 percent more apt to feel as though there is someone who is helping them advance. Politico also offers three months of maternity and paternity leave, opening the door to women to feel comfortable and secure about starting families.
There is a discrepancy between genders on beliefs regarding equality in the fashion workplace, with 100 percent of women thinking this to be an issue, while less than half of men do.
Attributed to the fact that there are many women designers in the fashion and accessories world, many men believe that there is no issue with inequality in fashion. According to a report from McKinsey, Glamour and the CFDA, women start careers in fashion with higher expectations than men (see story).
While there is a lack of gender diversity in everything from politics to corporations, one business that has seen little progress in parity is financial services. Today about 3 percent of women work in wealth management.
Alli McCartney, managing director with UBS Private Wealth Management, said that part of the reason her field is still male-dominated is because it is commission-based, making the potential for losing out while on maternity leave a challenge.
Despite this lack of women in the workforce in financial services, it is becoming increasingly more important for banks and institutions to cater to female clientele. About two-thirds of women say they lead their household, and one-third earn more than their spouse.
Additionally, women are set to inherit money through wealth transfer, and many who have been in the workforce are establishing their own assets. Divorces and deaths of spouses are also requiring women to be more independent about their finances.
Yet with this growing need for advice, women often do not seek out financial services. Three-quarters of women under the age of 40 have no wealth advisor.
Part of this lack of financial assistance may be tied to women’s dissatisfaction with services offered by banks. Whereas men desire results such as power, opportunity and returns from their wealth management, women report wanting aspects such as community and creating an impact and legacy.
Therefore, Ms. McCartney says soft skills will be imperative for wealth advisors of both genders. Managers can also win female clients’ business by offering flexible hours and building trust.
While recognizing the need for more gender equality is one thing, putting it into practice is another.
Progress in gender diversity has stalled in the last few years, according to Jeanne Zaino, senior advisor at AppliedTechonomics. Additionally, 20 percent of employees say that their company’s efforts around gender diversity are merely lip service to the issue.
Citing examples throughout history, Ms. Zaino said that those at the top need to make a commitment to change, but diversity initiatives need buy-ins from stakeholders to have a lasting effect.
Getting executive leadership on-board often boils down to speaking their language and showing the risks and rewards of making a change.
In addressing gender diversity, companies also have to look at issues on the local level, as challenges often differ depending on location.
Angela Lee, chief innovation officer and associate dean at Columbia Business School, spoke about overcoming biases and being unafraid to tackle tough conversations.
One thing companies can do is try to remove triggers for bias from their hiring process. For instance, orchestras began doing blind auditions, which resulted in more female musicians being hired.
In the corporate world, third-party services will take demographic indicators out of resumes to do merit-based matching for a position.
Companies may also want to think about how they are wording their job postings, removing language that appeals to certain types of individuals.
Ms. Lee also suggested opening up the door for healthy conflict by having meeting attendees fill out anonymous ideas of pros and cons to a particular plan. Companies can also spur innovation by pushing employees from different areas of the organization together, allowing them to gain new perspective and connections.
For women looking to move up the corporate ladder, Robert Reiss, founder and CEO of The CEO Forum Group, suggests taking on C-level language. Addressing plans as they relate to the organization’s mission and values can help an employee get on the top brass’ radar.
Owning a P&L is another path to leadership, as is identifying a personal brand and strengths and finding a way to show them off.
Lastly, establishing and training a successor opens the door for women to take on new opportunities, ensuring there is someone to take their place.
With only 24 female CEOs in the Fortune 500, Mr. Reiss sees reaching 50 as a goal. At this point, women will reach a critical mass where they can mentor each other and help others rise to the top position.
For women in luxury, the world can sometimes be a hostile place, which is why it is important for them to learn to work together and support each other, according to two entrepreneurs who have done so for 20 years.
At the Women in Luxury 2018 conference, Carrie Ellen Phillips and Vanessa Weiner von Bismarck, two women who have been working together for decades, spoke at length about their experiences as women and entrepreneurs as well as how to build a lasting partnership. One of the things they said elevated them to their current position was their joint work ethic (see story).
“You’ve got to make the investment if you’re going to make these changes,” Ms. Zaino said. “You cannot make a one-time change and then walk away from it.
“You have to continue to assess and reassess what has been the outcome of that reform,” she said. “Because reforms have unintended consequences, no matter if they’re positive or negative.”
ASHLEY BERNHARD: FOUNDER @ HAVEN HILL
I stay motivated by… the responsibility to make the world a better place.
Three adjectives that describe me are… organized, loyal, positive
If I could have dinner with one person it would be… Ruth Bader Ginsbergbecause she looks at women’s equality with a broad perspective and knows and promotes that in order to move the needle, men have to be part of the solution.
The most exciting innovation to me is… FaceTime! I love connecting with people, and this has been a game-changer for me.
I am a social impact consultant focused on women's leadership, equality and empowerment initiatives. I consider myself to be an “equalist” specializing in working with both men and women to promote gender equality inspiring the next generation of leaders.
How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?
I served as the Deputy Chairman of the Professional Squash Association, and while I was in that position, I devoted a lot of time and energy to advocate for and support the women’s division. In 4 short years we were able to roll out equal prize money at our top level tournaments. One thing led to another, and I moved on to start consulting in the equality/leadership/empowerment space.
What were you doing before this? How did it prepare you for the entrepreneurial life?
Before launching Haven Hill, I was on a long break from the working world to raise our three children. If you ever need a course in being an entrepreneur, raising kids is the way to go ~ every day is different and no one is sitting you down for a review or giving you a regular paycheck!
Who is the one super successful person you look up to? Why them? Can you share their quote/ideology that inspires you the most?
Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi. She leads with strength and grace and did not sacrifice her femininity when in the #1 seat.
"At the end of the day, don't forget that you're a person, don't forget you're a mother, don't forget you're a wife, don't forget you're a daughter.”
"To be a CEO is a calling," she said in 2007. "You should not do it because it is a job. It is a calling and you have got to be involved in it with your head, heart and hands. Your heart has got to be in the job, you have got to love what you do, it consumes you.” In this quote you could easily interchange CEO with Entrepreneur!
What is your biggest dream? Why?
Describe your biggest vision for your business. My biggest dream is to help move the needle on equality. The World Economic Forum’s research predicts that the world will not see equality for women (education, healthcare, pay etc) for 100 years. That shocks me and is the first thing I think of when I wake up each morning. I want to help the corporate world see that investing in women is not just the right thing to do but the SMART thing to do. The data all points in the same direction - when businesses invest in women, everything goes up: revenue, customer satisfaction, employee retention creativity etc. On a very basic data-driven level, it is a no-brainer to invest in, support and retain women in your group/division/company.
You’ve seen them throughout corporate America ― maybe even in your own company.
The road to gender equality is littered with failed standalone efforts that check “the gender equality box” — workplace initiatives like diversity workshops or employee resource groups filled only with women. While these efforts may raise awareness of the career barriers women face, they rarely move the needle on gender parity or generate lasting change.
At the Network of Executive Women, we believe in a “top down, bottom up” approach that emphasizes leadership development and opportunity for women, and — perhaps more important — the commitment of C-suite leaders who will drive policies, programs and a corporate culture that support women’s leadership.
CEOs and other senior leaders who want to change their organizations and achieve gender equality need to arm themselves with insights and action plans that will transform a gender-biased company into a business that leverages all of its talent in a workplace where all can succeed. Potent when applied together, these strategies will fall short if cherry-picked.
Make gender equality a business goal.
CEOs need to commit their full-fledged support to women’s leadership and mandate company policies that advance gender equality and pay equity. Unless gender equality and inclusion are placed high on the corporate agenda and included as routine topics of C-suite conversation, initiatives will stall. Establish companywide goals and targets by function and business, and tie them to business plans and executive incentives.
Create an open, inclusive culture.
To close gaps between policy intent and actual practice, C-suite leaders must walk the talk and practice conscious inclusion. Modeling gender-inclusive behavior — such as mentoring and sponsoring high-potential women — is a start, but modeling inclusion each day and inviting both men and women into “the room where it happens” has a powerful, lasting effect. Rather than focusing solely on negative, unconscious bias, actively reinforce and value inclusive behavior.
And, it still needs to be said: It’s time for zero tolerance for hostile workplaces. Equality can’t exist in a space where sexual harassment or innuendo is allowed.
Uphold gender-neutral policies that are fair and flexible.
CEOs must direct and foster family-friendly policies that enable gender-equal career paths. Do your development and promotion policies impact men and women differently or hinder your gender-parity goals?
Nearly 30 percent of full-time working parents in the United States surveyed by Ernst & Young said managing work and personal responsibilities is getting more difficult. Do your workplace practices provide flexibility that men and women need for family and other responsibilities?
At the same time, millennials place greater importance on work/life balance than their parents did. Among the top reasons millennials quit their jobs: excessive overtime hours (71 percent of those E&Y surveyed) and a boss that doesn’t allow them to work flexibly (69 percent).
Push for equal pay inside your company and influence your business partners.
Start with an equal pay analysis by job title and make adjustments. Does your merit pay program support equal pay? Do your maternity or disability leave policies inhibit hourly wage or salary increases? Is gender pay equality a consideration in the companies you do business with?
Ensure open access to all jobs.
One huge career hurdle for women is the lack of work experience that would position them for advancement to leadership roles. What percentage of your P&L roles are filled by women? One way to build more opportunities for P&L experience is to create channel- or project-based P&Ls.
Does your talent management system support a diverse slate of candidates for gender-neutral roles? How strong are your on-ramping and off-ramping programs?
Women should have the same opportunities for stretch assignments, career development programs, mentoring and sponsorship presented to men. Relocation is more difficult for women executives, who are more likely to be primary caregivers or in dual-career households. Offering women a global project, rather than a global position, is one way to make career-advancing positions more accessible.
In short, do women at your company have clear career paths? Bring men into the gender equality conversation and root out career barriers for women.
Be transparent and share talent data.
Share company policies and plans for promoting gender equality with the public. Remember, what gets measured gets attention — and resources. Establish benchmarks that quantify the inclusion of women at all levels — such as percent of women versus men in hiring, total employees, promotions and attrition — and share your progress internally and externally.
Top executives’ strong, vocal and consistent commitment to gender equality will help talented women achieve their best ― and help your company achieve the bottom-line results closely tied to women’s leadership.
How can women’s sports become mainstream?
While it’s never been a better time to be a female athlete, and participation in sport from women of all ages is on the rise, the one key area where we’re seriously lacking in is corporate investment. The most recent estimate of global corporate investment currently stands at 0.4% for women’s sports, with the majority of the rest of that figure going to the men.
This needs to change, and to achieve this we - that includes government, the media, people in business and you, dear reader - have to be pulling in the right direction. We have to educate potential investors and tell the story of the benefits of women sport better. Here’s my topline take on how.
1. We need to identify and empower female athletes - for the right reasons
The #WhatIf campaign by Women in Football, which launched last month, is a great start when it comes to empowering women’s sports for the right reasons. In a nutshell, businesses such as Betfair, Sky Sports and Barclays have pledged to invest in boosting the profile of women, working in the football industry.
#WhatIf also highlights how we need initiatives like this across the whole gamut of women’s sports, and for reasons that go beyond mere tokenism. These businesses have invested in the Women in Football initiative based on individual achievements and performance, not just their gender.
We need to start championing more sportswomen from a host of different sports because they excel at their game - like kickboxer Ruqsana Bequm and footballers like Sydney Leroux. Female sport stars can generate loyal and avid fanbases, so if we can boost their exposure, we can create a compelling desirable option for businesses to spend sponsorship money with them based on both the quality of their performance and their ability to generate engaged fans, beyond a token gesture.
2. We need to look beyond reach to attract more corporate investment
Sponsorship plays a big part in funding grassroots engagement in sports, and without it, most sports will struggle.
That 0.4% statistic is shocking to say the least, and it highlights the disparity between the growing interest surrounding sportswomen, and the lack of investment in championing them.
The key issue is that businesses look at men’s and women’s sports in the same way. It’s about how many eyeballs - in stadia and on TV’s - they can reach with their sponsorship money. This is disingenuous - while the popularity of women’s sports is on the increase, it’s never going to match the same number of viewers as its male counterparts.
This might be a bitter pill to swallow, but it shouldn’t matter that women’s sports attract fewer viewers. The point is that backing female sports goes beyond how many people see your logo on TV; it’s much more about who’s watching and engaging with the game and how they subsequently feel about the backing a particular business gives to that sport. Brands such as SSE, Vitality and Kia, who are already engaged with women’s games, have spoken about how they’re viewed in a positive light from audiences at games, which has turned into increased brand-love and affinity.
3. We need to sell women’s sport on the basis of engagement and participation
One of the main reasons for the groundswell of interest around women’s sports lies in the fact that they’re viewed as being more inclusive. Men’s football and rugby games are a pleasure to watch. But fans can be too loud and/or rude for families, who don’t appreciate their kids learning a lexicon of swear words to tell the ref he’s made a bad decision.
That’s partly why we’re seeing more families attend female sporting events. They’re slowly becoming the natural home for family audiences, and they may even succeed in bringing on board people who wouldn’t naturally watch sport.
But not only do these games attract a different audience, and therefore, different brands backing them, female athletes have also been shown to appeal to fans in different ways. They’re seen as more likeable and appealing - for example, during this year’s Winter Olympics, a study found that Team USA’s sportswomen drove more social media engagements per athlete than the sportsmen.
So while it’s never been a better time to be a female athlete, the commercial future can be much brighter. Women’s sports deserves to be in the mainstream. But it’s only through continued investment - which we can achieve if we market female sports in the right way, by focusing on the above three points - that we’ll keep growing the female game, and continue to raise the bar.
Unrealized Potential: The High Cost of Gender Inequality in Earnings is the first in a series of reports that aim to measure the global economic costs of gender inequality. This first report measures these losses in lifetime earnings.
In many countries, girls’ average educational attainment remains lower than boys and adult women are less literate than men. Apart from these gender gaps in educational attainment, discrimination and social norms shape the terms of female labor force participation. Women are less likely than men to join the labor force and to work for pay. When they do, they are more likely to work part-time, in the informal sector, or in occupations that have lower pay. These disadvantages translate into substantial gender gaps in earnings, which in turn decrease women’s bargaining power and voice.
In addition, many girls are married or have children before the age of 18, before they may be physically and emotionally ready to become wives and mothers. Women and girls also face higher risks of gender-based violence in their homes, at work, and in public spaces. Their voice and agency is often lower than that of males, whether this is within the household, at work, or in national institutions. This also affects their children. For example, children of young and poorly educated mothers often face higher risks of dying by age five, being malnourished, and doing poorly in school. Fundamentally, gender inequality disempowers women and girls in ways that deprive them of their basic human rights.
This lack of opportunities for girls and women entails large economic costs not only for them, but also for their households and countries. Achieving gender equality would have dramatic benefits for women and girls’ welfare and agency. This, in turn, would greatly benefit their households and communities, and help countries reach their full development potential. It would reduce fertility in countries with high population growth, as well as reduce under-five mortality and stunting, thereby contributing to ushering the demographic transition and the associated benefits from the demographic dividend.
Some key findings:
The Power of Parity: Advancing women's equality in Asia Pacific (McKinsey Global Institute, April 2018)
Advancing women’s equality in the countries of Asia Pacific could add $4.5 trillion to their collective annual GDP in 2025, a 12 percent increase over the business-as-usual trajectory.
Asia Pacific is today arguably the most dynamic region in the world, a global engine of growth driven by productivity, investment, technology, and innovation. Women can help—and are helping—to power this engine, making vital contributions to sustaining and enhancing Asia’s growth and lifting more people out of poverty. Yet gaps remain large in many countries in the region on gender equality both in work and in society. From an economic perspective, trying to grow without enabling the full potential of women is like fighting with one hand tied behind one’s back.
Five potential areas to prioritize to improve gender parity in Asia Pacific
There has been progress towards gender parity Asia Pacific overall. But there is still much more to do. Now is the time to redouble efforts.
Advancing women’s equality in the countries of Asia Pacific could add $4.5 trillion to their collective GDP annually in 2025, a 12 percent increase over a business-as-usual GDP trajectory. This additional GDP would be equivalent to adding an economy the combined size of Germany and Austria each year.
All countries in Asia Pacific could boost growth by advancing women’s equality All countries in Asia Pacific could boost growth by advancing women’s equalityAll countries Asia Pacific would benefit from advancing women’s equality. In a best-in-region scenario in which each country matches the rate of progress of the fastest-improving country in its region, the largest absolute GDP opportunity is in China, at $2.6 trillion, a 13 percent increase over business-as-usual GDP. The largest relative GDP opportunity is in India, which could achieve an 18 percent increase over business-as-usual GDP, or $770 billion (Exhibit 1).
To achieve this significant boost to growth will require the region to tackle three economic levers: increase women’s labor-force participation rate, increase the number of paid hours women work (part-time versus full-time mix of jobs), and raise women’s productivity relative to men’s by adding more women to higher-productivity sectors. Of the total $4.5 trillion GDP opportunity, 58 percent would come from raising the female-to-male labor-force participation ratio, in line with the global average contribution. A further 17 percent of the GDP opportunity would come from increasing the number of paid hours women work, and the remaining 25 percent from more women working in higher-productivity sectors.
McKinsey Global Institute’s calculation is a supply-side estimate of the size of the additional GDP available from closing the gender gap in employment. We acknowledge that the supply-side approach needs to be accompanied by demand-side policies that could influence the ability to create jobs to absorb additional female workers and require investment. In addition, education and vocational training systems will need to keep pace with rapid technological changes that are altering the nature of work and creating new types of jobs.
There is no one Asia Pacific journey toward gender equality
In its 2015 original “power of parity” report, MGI established a strong link between gender equality in work and in society—the former is not achievable without the latter. MGI’s Gender Parity Score (GPS) uses 15 indicators of gender equality in work and society to measure the distance each country has traveled toward parity, which is set at 1.00. Overall, Asia Pacific has a GPS of 0.56, slightly below the global average of 0.61—both high levels of gender inequality (Exhibit 2).
The research examines Asia Pacific as a whole with a particular focus on seven countries: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and Singapore. On gender equality in work, the Philippines stands out for its progress, followed by New Zealand and Singapore. The six countries furthest from gender parity in work are Bangladesh, India, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Korea. China does well on female labor-force participation but can improve its share of women in leadership—as can most countries in Asia. Gender inequality also remains high across the region in the sharing of unpaid care work.
On gender equality in society, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Singapore are ahead of most in the region on essential services such as education, maternal and reproductive health, financial and digital inclusion, and legal protection and political voice; countries like Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan still have a considerable distance to travel. Achieving gender parity in digital and financial inclusion is a large opportunity in many South Asian and Southeast Asian countries. Physical security and autonomy remains a concern in many parts of the region—and globally.
Asia Pacific nations have made progress in the past decade, driven by a combination of economic development, government measures, technological change, market forces, and activism. Maternal mortality and gender gaps in education have declined in countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and Nepal. Many countries have increased women’s labor-force participation, but participation has fallen in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka, a trend that may be linked to rising household income.
Women are heavily underrepresented in leadership positions
Women’s relatively low representation in leadership positions—measured using the female-to-male ratio—is a global issue. Worldwide, slightly less than four women hold leadership positions for every ten men in business and politics. In Asia Pacific, there is only one woman in leadership positions for every four men. In some countries in East Asia, there are only 12 to 20 women leaders for every 100 men. This is a waste of talent that the region can ill afford, especially when many economies are aging, labor pools are eroding, and skills shortages are on the rise (Exhibit 3).
Most countries in Asia Pacific have female-to-male ratios of less than 0.5. Even in Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, three of the region’s more advanced economies, the gender imbalance is notable. The Philippines, a traditionally matriarchal society whose government has been proactive in narrowing gender gaps, is the country in the world nearest to gender parity. However, even there, only 15 percent of board members are women.
There has been progress in recent years. On average in the region, women’s representation on boards increased from 6 percent in 2011 to 13 percent in 2016 (Exhibit 4). This appears partly to reflect regulations and corporate policies instituted during this period. For instance, India has made it mandatory for companies to have at least one female director, and the Australian Securities Exchange Corporate Governance Council tracks gender diversity in its constituent companies. However, women’s representation on boards in Asia Pacific is still low compared with the average share in advanced economies of 28 percent.
The smaller share of women in company leadership isn’t all about the glass ceiling. The relative lack of women in the top positions in business has its roots far earlier in the talent pipeline that runs from enrollment in tertiary education to entry-level positions, middle management, and the boardroom. In the seven countries we highlight in this research, the share of women erodes the further they are along this pipeline, with different patterns and bottlenecks among countries.
A McKinsey survey found that by far the largest barrier to women moving into senior roles cited by executives—45 percent—was the “anytime, anywhere” performance model. The second biggest—cited by 32 percent of respondents—was the “double burden” of women holding down a job while looking after their families, particularly in societies where women are still expected to take sole responsibility for family and household duties. Third was an absence of female role models, followed by a lack of pro-family public policies and support, including childcare; 30 percent of respondents cited the latter factor.
Policy makers, companies, and nongovernmental organizations can consider prioritizing measures in five key areas
Mapping the road ahead, policy makers, companies, and nongovernmental organizations could consider prioritizing action in five areas. Each of them applies across the region to differing degrees. Some aspects, namely female labor-market participation, are crucial for securing the potential economic benefits identified in most countries. Others, including the role that digital technologies can play, offer an opportunity to raise economic participation and earning while potentially improving gender equality in society. The imperative to shift societal attitudes toward women’s role in society and work appears in virtually all countries and can enable—or hold back—progress on all other aspects of gender inequality. Some approaches are more suitable for the formal economy, others for the informal economy. Broadly, measures need to be tailored to the cultural and economic context of each country, based on decision makers’ judgment—and experience—of what will be most effective. In the research, MGI has explored specific priorities for each of the seven countries highlighted. The following five key areas for action have relevance to all countries in the region:
WASHINGTON — Tuesday is “Equal Pay Day.”
It’s not a day of celebration, but more like a finish line for women. In 2018 women had to work, on average, until April 10 in order to earn as much money as men did by the last day of 2017.
Each year, women hope that the distance to our finish line will be shorter and that the gap between what men and women are paid will close a bit more.
Equal Pay Day reminds us of how far we’ve come, how far we have to go and the actions still needed to increase the earning power of our nation’s working women.
When looking at median annual salaries for each group, U.S. women are paid about 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. And the pay gap is even worse for women of color.
For significant change to occur, we believe more women need to assume leadership roles, especially by serving on corporate boards.
There’s proof that having more women in board positions yields benefits for an organization’s performance, and for society as a whole.
Statistics show there is plenty of potential for women to step into more board seats:
Boards of directors make decisions that can impact you, your community and the country.
These boards choose CEOs who then make decisions about compensation and other ways to spend profits, including how to support various social causes. That’s why we think there should be more female voices representing our viewpoints and interests.
In addition to societal advantages, research has shown that organizations themselves benefit from increasing diversity on their boards.
First, gender diversity in a company’s leadership tends to attract and motivate talented employees who want leadership that reflects the diversity of today’s talent pool.
Women are increasingly influencing spending decisions for their family’s wealth, so having women on a board provides more insight into the opinions and priorities of all consumers, not just males.
Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of Kroger, suggested to his board that having a more diverse group of leaders “helps you avoid blind spots” when making important corporate decisions.
For suggestions on how to improve your long-term financial security in the face of a pay gap, listen to Dawn’s WTOP 2017 Equal Pay Day interview.
What are strategies women can use to achieve a corporate board seat?
One of the reasons given for lower female representation in the boardroom is lack of sufficiently educated and qualified female talent. But statistics show women continue to earn advanced degrees at equal or higher rates than men.
The real issue is not education, but lack of relevant experience.
How then can women obtain the right qualifications to land a board position?
Our hope is that advocating for more representation for women on corporate boards will lead to stronger financial performance and higher pay for all employees, including women. Encouraging public companies to have a board that reflects the same diversity as their buying population is just one way everyone can make progress towards greater pay equality for all.
Dawn Doebler, CPA, CFP®, CDFA® is a senior wealth adviser at The Colony Group. She is also a co-founder of Her Wealth®.
Jennifer Conrad didn't have high expectations when she interviewed for a management position at the Leominster headquarters for Fidelity Bank. After all, she was seven-and-a-half-months pregnant.
"I felt like it was such a wasted effort," Conrad said. But "when I stepped out of the bank that day, I said, 'I need to be here.'"
She was hired. And a decade later, Conrad, Fidelity Bank's senior vice president and senior cash management officer, serves as an example of a company's culture prioritizing having women in executive positions in equal numbers as men.
"She was a very talented person and culturally aligned with how we treat our clients," said Ed Manzi, the Fidelity Bank CEO who hired Conrad and still leads the 10-branch bank. "It just seemed like the right thing to do."
With nine women among its top 16 executives, Fidelity Bank is an outlier in the Central Massachusetts business community, as only four of the 42 local for-profit companies examined by WBJ had at least 40 percent women among their senior executives and board members.
Fidelity Bank has seen its total deposits more than double in a decade to $659 million in 2016, and in the past year has grown through acquisitions of Barre Savings Bank and Colonial Co-operative Bank in Gardner.
This type of financial success is a common thread among businesses with greater gender diversity in their leadership.
Companies with women in at least 15 percent of senior management positions have 18-percent more profits than companies where women comprise less than 10 percent of those seats, according to a 2016 study by Swiss multinational financial institution Credit Suisse. The best performance was shown in companies where women make up half of senior leadership positions.
"You don't get a diverse lens of what's happening inside and outside your company" without diversity, said Susan Adams, a Bentley University professor who's conducted research for the women advocacy group The Boston Club.
"Women live different lives than men," Adams said. "They can see things differently."
Woman-led profitsCompanies with women in the top leadership position (i.e. CEOs) were shown in the Credit Suisse study to perform better than those led by men, with 19-percent better profits.
Among the 75 Central Massachusetts business organizations – including nonprofits – studied by WBJ, only nine led led by a woman, and none of those were public companies.
One of the most recent female publiccompany CEOs in Central Massachusetts was Carol Meyrowitz, who led TJX Cos. from 2007 to 2016.
The Framingham- and Marlborough-based owner of retail chains Marshalls, T.J.Maxx and HomeGoods touts relatively high levels of women throughout the business. Globally, 77 percent of TJX's workforce is female, as are 51 percent of assistant vice presidents.
In the past three years, women at TJX have earned 51 percent of promotions into senior vice president roles, 40 percent of promotions into vice president roles, and 58 percent of promotions into assistant vice president roles.
"At the board level and throughout the TJX organization, women are an important part of our workforce and represent an increasing percentage of our leadership team," Meyrowitz said in a statement.
TJX has been a force in retail at a time when many of its competitors have struggled against big box stores and online retailers like Amazon. From the budget year Meyrowitz's CEO term began through the latest budget year, the company's profit rose 161 percent to $2.3 billion, sales jumped 69 percent to $30.9 billion, and the store count rose by 51 percent to more than 3,800.
Meyrowitz said achieving goals at the company "relies to a great degree on our ability to continuously develop our next generation of leaders."
Female CEOs = gender diversityFemale-led companies have been found to have better gender diversity throughout their ranks, according to a 2017 report by Chicago-based executive leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart. At female-led American businesses, 33 percent of directors are female. At male-led firms, that rate is 22 percent.
In Central Massachusetts, out of the 75 institutions examined by WBJ, the nine led by women have better records of appointing women to boards and executive offices. Their rate for boards is 43 percent, compared to 33 percent among all the organizations examined. Among executives, the rate is 57 percent at female-led entities compared to 36 percent among all.
Female business leaders also help companies in intangible ways.
Los Angeles-based executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry found last year in talking to 57 women CEOs at large national companies, female CEOs are more likely than male CEOs to be motivated by a sense of purpose and a belief their company could have a positive effect on the community and its employees.
New York City-based investment research firm MSCI in a 2015 study found fewer instances of governance-related controversies such as cases of fraud and shareholder battles at companies with better gender diversity.
Manzi, Fidelity Bank's CEO since 1997, said gender equality has never explicitly been the bank's objective.
"We didn't target a number," he said, adding of the qualified candidates the bank has chosen, "it just so happens that a lot of them are women."
On one wall in a Fidelity Bank meeting room is a message illustrating the bank's priorities with employees: "If you value the differences in people, the differences will provide value."
Female-inclusive firms remain the exceptionOf Central Massachusetts's 17 public companies, women make up only 8 percent of executive positions. Twelve of the 17 companies don't have a female senior executive, and half of those don't have a female board member.
"Biases and misconceptions continue to linger," said Danna Greenberg, a professor of organizational behavior at Babson College in Wellesley.
Female candidates generally need to push for themselves for consideration more than a man does, Greenberg said, and a woman who might be seen as pushy could cause a different reaction than a man would.
"Women need to figure out much earlier in their career how they balance that pushback from being a strong self-advocate," Greenberg said.
Women held fewer high-level positions decades ago because they were less likely to have college degrees, but that's changed.
Women make up a higher percentage of college graduates than ever, outnumbering men for the first time in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"They're very highly educated, which has changed," Adams said of female candidates for high-level jobs. "You couldn't say that 20 years ago. You probably couldn't even say that 15 years ago."
At Fidelity Bank, Conrad said she's seen an environment not typical in finance.
"In my 20 years in banking, I hate to use this term, but it can be seen as a boys' club," she said. "It's so refreshing to go to chamber events with more women representing companies. I'd like to see more. Who wouldn't?"
CORRECTION: This story has been changed to reflect that it was Fidelity Bank's deposits, not assets, that rose to $659 million.
I have spent many hours talking with colleagues in international development about how to tear down the barriers that block women’s progress around the world. Now, we’re confronting the fact that every sector, including our own, has a serious problem with sexual harassment and violence. The norms that allow these abuses are the same ones that disempower the poorest women, and only when they are dismantled across the globe will all women and girls be able to lead the lives they want.
Practically speaking, though, what can a philanthropic organization like ours do to promote a goal—equality everywhere—that’s impossibly large?
We’ve been investing in women’s health for a long time and seen significant progress. But as I spend more time visiting communities and meeting people around the world, I am convinced that we’ll never reach our goals if we don’t also address the systematic way that women and girls are undervalued. With a new focus on women’s economic empowerment, connecting women to markets, making sure they have access to financial services, and empowering them to help themselves, we aim to help tear down the barriers that keep half the world from leading a full life.
We’ll spend $170 million over the next four years to help women exercise their economic power, which the evidence suggests is among the most promising entry points for gender equality. Simply put when money flows into the hands of women who have the authority to use it, everything changes.
First, their families benefit. One in three married women in the poorest countries have no say over major household purchases. Research shows, however, that women are much more likely than men to buy things that set their families on a pathway out of poverty, like nutritious food, health care, and education. In Niger, for example, when women had more financial autonomy, their families ate more meat and fish. One of the most astonishing statistics I’ve seen is that when a mother has control over her family’s money, her children are 20% more likely to survive.
Second, everyone starts to re-think the part women can play in their own communities. A recent study in India found that merely owning and using a bank account led women to work outside the home more. As a result, they earned more money, but they also changed men’s perception of them. By defying a social norm that confined them inside, they started to change it.
Women acting on their own can do what all the philanthropic organizations in the world can never accomplish: change the unwritten rule that women are lesser than men. Our role, as we see it, is to make targeted investments that give women the opportunity to write new rules.
First, our new gender equality strategy will seek to link women to markets. Hundreds of millions of women help run small farms across Africa and Asia, raising crops and livestock, but in most cases, they do so without knowing what is a fair price for their products. We want to help them overcome this barrier and prosper from their labor. To do so, we’ll support women farmers as they organize in collectives that aggregate produce from small farms and sell it to buyers at a fair price and, where possible, use mobile phone applications that provide real-time price information.
We also want more women to use digital bank accounts. Many governments send welfare or safety net payments to low-income families, but this money is usually controlled by men. We will work on systems in eight countries, including India, Pakistan and Tanzania, to deposit it into accounts controlled by women.
Finally, we’ll support self-help groups where women and girls teach one another about everything from launching a small business to raising healthy children—and reimagine their standing in society. In India, the more than 75 million women who already belong to such groups have proven a force for real progress. We want younger girls to have the same opportunity. During adolescence, parents place more restrictions on their daughters, and girls’ range of movement shrinks—in South Africa, for example, by more than half. Self-help groups can widen their horizons.
I gained a valuable perspective on self-help groups when I spent an afternoon in Jharkhand, India, with Neelam Bhengra. She joined a group to learn how to increase the yields on her farm. But gradually, she organized the members to advocate for themselves with local government. “If I’m alone, I can’t do anything,” she told me. But with the support of her group, she said, “I will keep fighting for women until I die.”
Neelam is a force for generations to come. She told me all about her children, who were going to school and planning for a future Neelam herself never imagined. The data says that their children, Neelam’s grandchildren, will be even more healthy–and more prosperous. We want to help more Neelams find their voice, seize opportunities, and change their world—and their children’s world—into what they dream it can be.
In the ranking of the 100 highest-paid athletes, there is just one woman - tennis star Serena Williams.