Let’s start with the facts. Female leaders represent only 25% of senior roles globally. At S&P 500 companies approximately 5.8% of CEO positions are held by women and 19.9% of board seats are filled by women.This means that men hold the power relative to talent and succession.
We have not been able to significantly move the needle on the representation of women at senior leadership levels. This is the disheartening truth. Valiant attempts have been made with corporate North America having no shortage of both internal and external task forces and support groups aimed at addressing this pressing issue.
Businesses are in business for one reason only. Oh yes, to make the world a better place, but ultimately it is to garner profits and out beat their competitors. Here again are the stats. Corporations that develop and promote diversity financially outperform their industry median. In other words, we know plain and simple diverse representation produces a robust employee culture, which results in forward-thinking and bottom line results.
Historically men have wielded power as decision makers leading the charge for big business. I believe women’s groups do provide a platform for support and critical dialogue. We must step back though as I believe these groups have not garnered the necessary clout or power to make a fundamental difference. You may beg to differ; however, it is hard to argue with the facts.
Businesses need a new paradigm. Women cannot and will not get ahead without men also leading the battle at the top of the house. This is very different from what exists today. Most male leaders agree and endorse all initiatives to solve this problem. And there lies the rub.
Targets with specific time frames must be tied to compensation. The CEO, their leadership team and skip level executives should be the compensated based on their ability to drive the change for diversity. Why do some organizations even still call this a women’s issue?
Most organizations claim that one of their primary challenges is the lack of a talent pipeline. Corporations must build their bench. Appointing women to increasingly senior roles will address this challenge. These women must be given the same opportunities as men to advance their careers.
Senior leadership should be rated on metrics that include 3 key targets. Meeting objectives, demonstrating the right leadership behaviors and achieving a diversity target. Annual bonuses must be tied to all 3 levers.
The critical difference is that all three of these levers must be given equal weight. Right now this is rarely the case. Senior leadership receives healthy bonuses despite the disparaging lack of equal female representation. Is this not a mixed message?
A financial model is the underlying metric that is required to change the landscape for women. If senior leaders feel it is in their pocketbook they will then be catapulted to change. Without this, gender diversity and all diversity will remain an ongoing challenge.
Cindy Wahler, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a leadership consultant specializing in executive coaching and talent management. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.