Companies with Few Executive Women Are at a Disadvantage

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While many blog posts and articles report that the lack of women in top leadership roles is a serious problem, it doesn't seem like there has been been complete buy-in. Perhaps some companies wonder why this might even be a problem or why people make such a big deal of this.

It makes me wonder whether equity and diversity is seen as something that "would be nice" or "would be ideal" but the bottom line is always what it must come down to for companies. Maybe the focus on equity and diversity feels too human, too squishy. Using bottom line "hard data" certainly would make sense. You need hard, clear outcomes to make good decisions for the company.

Some companies have such a small margin of profit, they may not even want to mess with anything to cause an imbalance in any direction. Unfortunately, this is fairly short-sighted in that the focus is clearly on short-term year-to-year profits and not on long-term sustainable solutions to company security. 

The fact is that these two ideas - of having gender (as well as all kinds of) diversity and having long-term improvements in profit outcomes - are not mutually exclusive.

Reputable sources, including PEW research, Harvard Business Review (HBR), Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Insider, Peterson Institute, and others have found that:

  1. Diversity in general, including gender diversity, leads to better problem solving.

  2. Women's heavier focus on internal management, helps improve company culture, including improving internal talent, leadership and operational management (i.e., fair pay, benefits, and mentorship).

  3. Women are often better spokespersons and communicators of the company’s work and with certain clients.

  4. Women work more collaboratively and in certain sectors, a focus on collaborative team work and client relationships are increasingly preferred and more effective. 

  5. Having women in top leadership roles does in fact increase profitability, as well as better employee performance.

  6. Women are especially strong in networking, identifying smart strategic opportunities, and making connections that strengthen the company and protect it.

The data from these studies include samples between n=2,000 to n=20,000: enough to make strong statistical conclusions on these aspects.

One Forbes contributor noted that "With incontrovertible evidence of this, organizations not aggressively pursuing the cultivation of women executives are making the expressed, intentional choice to disregard evidence, severely undermining performance and compromising their organization’s potential.

So, can we please stop asking “where is the evidence to support the need?” and start asking “how quickly can my company get up to speed with improving the leadership pipeline for women in order to improve our competitive edge?

Want to dive deeper? Below are just a few articles on this subject, some of which describe the results I mentioned, while others offer compelling arguments to start the discussion. (In a separate post, I also wrote about one way companies can help close this leadership gap).

5 reasons why having women in leadership benefits your entire company (Medium)

Study: Firms with More Women in the C-Suite Are More Profitable (Harvard Business Review) (BTW, can you get any clearer than this title?)

Companies with women in leadership roles crush the competition (Business Insider)

Four reasons why women make great executives (Forbes)

14 ways businesses benefit from having women in leadership positions (Wall Street Insanity)

Why we need more women leaders (CNN)

Women in Company Leadership Tied to Stronger Profits, Study Says (The New York Times)

This article was originally posted in Psychology Today online on October 13, 2018. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved by Mira Brancu/Brancu & Associates, PLLC.