Significant upside exists for businesses that are leading the change to gender diverse executive teams. According to the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality, a girl born today will be an 81-year-old grandmother before she has the same chance as a man to be CEO of a company; at 50, she will have an equal chance to lead a country. These are interesting findings considering that multiple studies show the value of diversity, especially among the Senior Executive and Board of Directors levels of an organization. Certainly, there are organizations with leaders committed to making a difference through gender diversity. Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company, recognized the opportunity that creating diverse leadership would provide for his organization and was a champion in leading change.
A paradigm shift is required to “move the needle” of gender diversity in a meaningful way. Is there a tangible business upside that occurs, when there is gender balance across the ranks in an organization? Here are some facts to consider in reflecting on that question:
- 85% of all brand purchases are made by women.
- Women make/influence 80% of the healthcare spending decisions in the U.S. (source)
- In 2014, ~40% of women, age 25 to 34, held a Bachelor’s Degree or higher compared to ~32% of men. (source)
“To be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment. The world will never realize 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realize their full potential. “
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Who Is Leading the Change?
Unfortunately, the answer to the question at large is no one, at least in a significant way. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Human Capital Report (based on 178 submissions from 164 companies in 28 countries, covering 1.7 million employees), only 60-70% of the eligible female population participates in the global workforce, while male participation is in the high 80’s percentile. The data shows three organizational factors positively influencing gender diversity: 1) broad, holistic approaches to support female talent; 2) real leadership engagement in support of gender diversity; and 3) active talent management beyond traditional diversity programs.
I would offer that in business, there has never been a better time than now for transformation in gender equality.
What do you think?