An increasing number of stories have been in the news lately dedicated to both the rise, and then plateau, of women appointed leadership roles and their ensuing success in a variety of professions.
From Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg’s controversial Lean In book that pushes for gender equality, and suggests to women that they stay fully engaged and committed to their careers if that is the brass ring they choose. Marissa Mayer’s role as CEO of Yahoo! recent challenge to reign in remote workers, of which many are women trying to juggle it all. To the recent noise around the architect Denise Scott Brown, whose partner Robert Venturi won the 1991 Pritzker Prize (the Oscars for architects) without any mention of her contribution to the design.
A tremendous amount of research has been done around the world, not only showing statistics as to women’s influence in corporations both as executives and on boards, but also comparisons to the impact and quality of these leaders in a global economy.
A recent GMI Ratings survey shows that since 2009, the percentage of women on boards in the U.S. has risen just 1.9 percent, compared to a four percent increase in developed Europe, and as of 2011, women took up only 16% of board positions in the US among Fortune 500 companies. We have to wonder why?
A study by Credit Suisse indicated the financial benefits of having women in the boardroom. “The key finding is that, in a like-for-like comparison, companies with at least one woman on the board would have outperformed stocks with no women on the board by 26 percent over the course of the last 6 years. The Research Institute’s analysis showed that stocks with women on board are more likely to have lower levels of gearing than their peer group where there are no women on the board. Lower relative debt levels have been a useful determinant of equity market outperformance over the last four years, delivering average outperformance of 2.5 percent per annum over the last 20 years and 6.5 percent per annum over the last four years.”
Researchers from Harvard Business School and Catalyst found “…companies with ‘gender-inclusive leadership’ contributed more charitable funds, and that more women leaders correlated with “higher levels of philanthropy” and the quality of CSR projects is impacted by women in leadership.” Women are beginning to finally play a major role in the global marketplace [watch this McKinsey Video].
“It takes a village” for a professional woman to achieve that role and make an influential impact; and that ‘village’ is yours to build! One key factor that arises is the need for mentors in your respective field. Personally for me, my village is a self appointed board of advisors (BOA). Your BOA should include gender and skills diversity too. Look for someone in your industry for mentorship, and then search your village for those with key skills in communications, marketing, sales, finance, R&D and leadership.
Many of the women business owners that I work with comment on the benefit of having an outside perspective on their business and marketing plans. There is a common language, in my experience, among women business owners who are not only feeling responsible for a bottom line, but are also looking for successful and meaningful personal experiences in addition to their role as business women.
Here are several programs that benefit women:
- SBA, Office of Women Business Owners
- National Association of Professional Women
- Women in Architecture, Women In Tech
- Eastside Women in Business
- Lean In Circles
I am sure that there are many more (in) valuable resources out there. Feel free to share them in our comments section or send me an email with your thoughts. Thanks for your support! — alex