Creating Win-Wins for Companies and Women
In many companies, women are not advancing. This is despite the extensive research showing that more women in leadership positions equals higher company profits and a more competitive organization. At each level of an organization, women dwindle in numbers, leading to a lack of gender balance on top leadership teams.
If women make up less than 25% of an applicant pool, they are more likely to be negatively evaluated.
As a CEO who advocates and appreciates diversity, a new book by Joelle K. Jay and Howard Morgan intrigued me. The New Advantage: How Women in Leadership Can Create Win-Wins for Their Companies and Themselves doesn’t just talk about the challenge but also provides women ideas and tools to advance. Their research is based on interviews with hundreds of senior executives.
I recently spoke with the authors about their work in creating win-win situations for companies and women.
“Executive presence is the degree to which others perceive you to be a leader.” –Morgan & Jay
The Unique Problems Women Face in Leaders
What are some of the problems women uniquely face in the workforce?
We have worked with some of the largest organizations in the world. Based on our experience, and several major reports, companies with the highest representation of women in senior management positions are shown to perform the best. Research reports that companies with more women:
- Are more profitable (18-69%)
- Are more competitive (25%)
- Are more effective because they demographically reflect the market (83%).
In balanced leadership teams of men and women, women tend to bring fresh perspectives and ideas, talent and experience, and that leads to better decision-making.
The problem is despite all of those advantages, we found they are persistently underrepresented in senior levels of leadership. Women currently hold only 4.0% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, according to the Catalyst research organization Catalyst.
Companies Benefit When Women Are in Leadership
What are some of the advantages companies experience when more women are represented in leadership?
Companies that attract and develop executive women gain amazing benefits related to profitability, productivity and performance. Some areas include increased revenues, greater innovation, increased employee engagement, higher productivity, better financial performance, global competitive advantage, and stronger leadership.
Companies benefit from the increased financial performance associated with a balanced leadership team, beating their competition by up to a third.
Research: Companies with a balanced leadership team beat the competition by up to a third.
What barriers do women face today?
The women we’ve spoken with and worked with report a wide range of issues. Perhaps the biggest barrier is a lack of awareness on the part of their companies about what stops women from advancing and how to increase the number of women in senior level and executive leadership positions.
There are a number of obstacles that have prevented the integration of women into the highest levels of leadership. First, change takes time. Second, few role models exist for women at the top. Third, we are still learning about the barriers that prevent women from breaking into C-level leadership. Two of the biggest breakthroughs in recent research for the advancement of women to leadership positions are executive presence and sponsorship. These have only become prevalent topics of research in recent years. And in reality, until recently the business culture has evolved around a predominance of men as leaders, and characteristics associated with successful leadership are still aligned with more masculine traits.
“Women who want to succeed to higher levels of leadership have to take the lead.” –Morgan & Jay