Companies with a gender diverse C-suite have been shown to not only perform better financially; they also gain a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting and retaining talented women executives.
Gender diversity isn’t as simple as a few key executive hires, however. It starts with making sure you have talented women in the pipeline who can transition into those executive-level positions naturally, as well as considering and hiring women executives from outside of the company when positions open.
Why Gender Diversity Works
Company-wide gender diversity isn’t just a laudable goal, it’s good business. Studies have shown that gender-diverse companies are not only more successful, but they’re also more attractive to potential employees who are seeking a safe and supportive work environment.
Women executives are of particular importance when trying to reap the benefits of gender diversity. Not only are companies with women in the C-suite more profitable, but they can also help sustain gender diversity throughout your organization. Serving as role models, women executives help attract talented women to your company, as well as help retain top women performers already on staff.
Gender diversity works because it brings the best qualities of men and women to light, helping with things like problem solving, teamwork and productivity. Men and women approach work differently. We have different ideas, viewpoints, and insights. However, these differences are precisely why a gender-diverse workforce is important.
The Problem is Real
Despite these benefits, women are still seriously underrepresented in the boardroom. According to the 2018 “Women in the Workplace” study – conducted by LeanIn.org and management consulting firm McKinsey and Company – women in the U.S. made up just 22 percent of C-suite positions (despite making up roughly 50 percent of the population).
The problem doesn’t appear to be going away either.
“Since 2015, the first year of this study, corporate America has made almost no progress in improving women’s representation,” the study stated. “Women are underrepresented at every level, and women of color are the most underrepresented group of all, lagging behind white men, men of color and white women.” Look no further than the Fortune 500! The number of female chief executives on the 2018 list fell 25 percent from the prior year. A mere 24 women are represented on the most recent list of the country’s biggest companies.
The study, which gathered data from 279 U.S. companies, employing more than 13 million people, concluded that the more U.S. firms hire and promote women, the less likely they are to fall behind in a global economy that is becoming increasingly gender diverse.
By following these steps, you can make serious progress toward gender diversity.
1. Identify the problem
Before you can address the problem, you have to know if there is one. That means taking a deep dive into the gender makeup of your company. Look at the organization as a whole, as well as at different divisions within the company.
2. Change your culture
The Gallup study added that companies looking to promote gender diversity should work to promote an engaged environment that gives men and women the opportunity to forge trusting relationships. This can be accomplished by moving people around so that they have the opportunity to work with those who are different from them. Over time, the hope is that strong working relationships will form across gender lines.
3. Hire women executives
Studies have shown that talented women are attracted to companies with women leaders already in place. These executives can serve as role models and potentially act as mentors to women employees and potential hires. When seeking to hire more women executives, you should take a look at your employee value proposition, as well as your employer brand strength to ensure your organization looks ideal to top recruits.
4. Track your success
Lastly, companies need a way of tracking their success, so setting inclusiveness goals is important. Aside from measuring financial performance or the overall number of male and female employees, executives should take the time to talk to employees directly and ask them about their experience. The best way to produce a culture of open and honest feedback is to create a family-like environment within your organization. Direct feedback from current employees could be the best way to gauge your progress toward your goal of gender diversity (and all the business benefits it brings).