March 8, 2018

Geraldine Ferraro once said, “Some leaders are born women.” And in a world where women are climbing to the top of their fields, there’s never been a better time to be a woman leader in the workplace. There have been numerous studies showing that companies with more women in leadership roles tend to be considered “higher quality” companies, with better returns on equity. Companies that utilize their female talent effectively are 45 percent more likely to report improved market share. Having more women in leadership roles is good for society, too. According to the World Economic Forum, countries with greater female representation are more prosperous and competitive.

In 2015, about 52 percent of all management, professional and related occupations in the United States were held by women. And yet, today, women still only account for around 5 percent of the CEOs of S&P 500 companies and less than 20 percent of the board members of Fortune 1000 companies.

Why aren’t there more high-level female executives? It’s not due to a lack of desire. A recent Gallup study found that 45 percent of women express interest in becoming a CEO or holding another position in senior management or leadership. It’s the women who are very determined who have the greatest potential to meet their goal. And yet, those who check every box may still be overlooked for the male counterpart.

Companies can and must commit to advancing and empowering women. And that must be driven from the top. How we, as leaders, drive change that has a lasting impact requires strategy, focus and a plan.

Companies with inclusive and diverse cultures are better positioned to adapt, grow and thrive in a changing business environment. After all, innovation stems from collaboration and the sharing of unique ideas and different perspectives. Moreover, research has shown that diverse workforces outperform their standardized counterparts. Different perspectives, experiences and insights improve decision-making and lead to better performance. For most organizations, what’s good for women is good for the whole workforce.

In a time of unprecedented business change, it’s not enough to rely on what’s always been done. Companies need to think differently about how to create new opportunities for women who aspire to lead. One possibility: Rather than wait for a man to step down from the company’s board of directors in order to add a woman, increase the total number of board seats to accommodate a new female director.

Mentors can be extremely effective when it comes to personal and career growth. Companies can encourage women — in fact, all employees — to find mentors or coaches to help them develop their skills and build their career paths.

Another idea to promote women in the workplace is to create advisory boards to enhance career opportunities for women and drive local and national initiatives that support, advance, retain and reward women.

We are in an interesting time now. There is a lot of focus on women in the workplace. The diversity agenda is under fire and women are at the core of it; equal pay, equal opportunity, women on boards.

Many would say that it is a difficult time for women. I would argue that there is no better time to be a woman.

Yes, it is challenging; yes, it is hard; yes, there are stats to prove all of this – but there is also opportunity, an opportunity to lead as women in business.

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