Looking for a way to boost your company’s revenue, effectiveness, and impact? There’s a simple, yet often overlooked, way to do that (and it’s backed by studies coming in from all over the place): more female leadership.
The numbers don’t lie: Gender-diverse businesses hold a huge advantage. Companies with more equalized gender distribution have 30 percent higher IPO’s. And women-led private technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieving 35 percent higher return on investment.
But despite these revealing numbers, we’re still not seeing a massive shift toward promoting more women into executive leadership positions. For instance, as of January 2018, there were only 27 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, a number that will actually decrease to 24 by April 2018.
How then do we make a concerted effort to provide equal opportunity and see more women in top leadership positions? The fact is, you probably can’t change the number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500, and neither can I. But I can take steps to actively promote diversity in my company’s talent pipeline, and you can do the same. Here’s how to start:
1. Evaluate your organization and identify opportunities
Whatever you measure will improve — that’s why self-evaluation is key for any leadership team. If your team is truly committed to constant improvement, upholding the organization’s values, and crafting a healthy culture, you’ll need to check in on only a few key areas. These will show you the changes needed to propel equal engagement of women, both today and over time.
You may find that only a portion of the company, such as a certain department (like HR) or a specific work group, is actively pursuing diversity and inclusion. You may find that your benefits are inadvertently discouraging women from rising in the organization by leaving out a competitive family-leave plan for new parents (aspiring women look for this, because, without it, starting a family can often mean a significant career setback).
Competitive PTO plans and flexibility in work arrangements and hours are also critical to working parents, especially to women, who often assume the majority of their families’ childcare responsibilities. Be honest in your evaluation of these benefits and poll your women leaders to ensure that you are truly offering a gender-neutral work environment with equal approach and equal benefit for all. Are you rewarding outcomes or hours worked?
Also, annually check your compensation practices and actual salaries to ensure that you’re not accidentally promoting gender bias with unequal pay for the same roles, responsibilities, or tenure. If your hiring process allows exceptions to pay bands, sign-on bonuses, benefits, or perks, you need to review regularly to ensure that those exceptions, where necessary, are being made for both genders.
2. Find sponsor and mentoring opportunities
Most companies have leaders who talk about diversity and inclusion. But those talking points don’t always translate into tangible opportunities. Women specifically report feeling that they have less access to senior leadership than men do. How do we fix this?
Studies show that young women thrive when they see other women in leadership. This is particularly true with millennials, who care about seeing their employers’ values expressed through actions.
Women thrive when they see other women in leadership.
Instead of simply talking about diversity goals, ensure that each department is implementing practical solutions for the development and mentoring of women and of underrepresented minority groups. Invest in a formal coaching program to provide the infrastructure needed to support and grow them and you’ll likely see diversity improving rapidly.
3. Talk openly about career progression
You might accidentally be keeping women from advancing by expecting them to use the same methods of advancement as men.
Women are less likely to use traditional advertising to find a new job, and they’re less likely to use traditional workstreams to advance their career. Instead, they’re more likely to leverage their existing relationships. If you make sure your management and executive teams are aware of and accommodating to this preference, you’ll find it much easier to hire and promote women. Identify champions on your leadership team who will engage with women in career pathing and resource planning.
Also, be sure your leaders are communicating to every employee about career progression. Underrepresented groups are often accidentally left out of the communication loop. You can solve this by being crystal clear about new opportunities and the expectations and qualifications for advancement — and also by making sure everyone is applying them consistently and fairly. The path to promotion shouldn’t be a mystery to any employee! Role profiles, performance expectations, and promotion criteria should be documented and accessible to all.
If we can do it, so can you
Bridge Partners is proud to lead the way with a diverse leadership team and talent pipeline. Our employee base is currently clocking in at around 55 percent women. That level of gender diversity is something we’re passionate about helping other companies to achieve as well.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but the faster that action is taken today, the faster the results will improve. Be bold in your commitment to change, ensure that your leadership team is evaluating the root causes, and work to implement strategies that have been proven to attract and retain powerhouse female talent. Your company will thank you with increased profits and a richer, more diverse culture.
Ready to take the next step in your career? To see our current openings and connect with a recruiter, visit our Careers page.