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Creating Opportunities for Women to Succeed in Male-Dominated Industries

The Mastercard Tech Hub and Ellevate Network take action on the advancement of women in business.

There's no denying that women are faced with challenges in the workplace. These challenges include: sexual harassment; access to opportunities; the ‘mom’ effect; pay gaps; biases; investing gaps; good old boys’ club; mini-me syndrome; and, more. Furthermore, the challenges increase exponentially in male-dominated industries such as: finance; technology; consulting; advertising; media & entertainment; law; politics, etc. These industries are comprised of 25% or fewer female employees, and an even smaller percentage of women in leadership.

According to research done by Cornell University, “the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it.” We know that the disparity between men and women in the workforce has been detrimental, but research shows that increasing diversity in male-dominated industries is not only good for the company, but also for the economy as a whole.

A 2011 Catalyst study of Fortune 500 companies attests to the fact that having more women in leadership is good for a company’s bottom line. While only 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs, the Catalyst study showed that companies with three or more women corporate directors outperformed those with no women on their boards, achieving a 42% return on sales, 66% return on invested capital, and 53% return on equity.

Furthermore, a 2016 Peterson Institute survey of almost 22,000 firms from 91 countries suggests that the presence of women in corporate leadership positions can contribute to and advance a firm’s performance. The study found that having greater diversity in the executive suite is positively and significantly correlated with measures of financial performance, such as gross revenue and net margins.

Lastly, the 2015 KPMG Women's Leadership study showed 86% of women see possibility in getting to positions of leadership and feel that it is an attainable goal when they see more women in these positions.

Why should we work to create equal opportunity for women in all industries? Other than that it is common sense as women make up half the world population and it’s just the right thing to do? Research shows having more women on teams and in leadership positions leads to:

1. More innovation
2. Higher ROEs and increased profitability
3. Better problem-solving
4. More collaboration
5. Increased mentorship and sponsorship opportunities

Companies and individuals can take action that pull women past these barriers and set them up to succeed in any type of work environment. Here’s how:

1. Don’t let the stereotypes and unconscious biases get to you: When women lead, their leadership traits are more often perceived in a negative way. In trying to be assertive, we hear, “she’s so bossy,” or while trying to be passionate and empathetic, the “why is she getting so worked up?” responses are front and center. It is important to look past these comments and continue to lead with confidence.
2. Find your network: Women are stronger together. They know how to support and open doors for each other. Find a network of women who support your goals. Ellevate Network provides a community for professional women who are ambitious, supportive, and ready to get where they’re going faster and smarter.
3. Set the stage: Sometimes when you’re in a group and you’re the only woman on the team, there are times when the men plan innocuous after-hours meetings that are not female-friendly or skew in a way that alienates members of the team. Instead, set the stage. Be proactive and positive. Create the next situation and include everyone.
4. Don’t be afraid to fail: Failure isn’t a negative. It is an opportunity to learn, grow, and push boundaries that ultimately lead to success. Take a chance and fail. Try again and fail better, smarter, and faster.
5. Take ownership of your accomplishments (and let others know about them): When you’ve accomplished something at work, share it at a team meeting, send your boss a note, and let others outside of your team know as well. Keep a running journal that tracks what you’ve accomplished. By keeping your name and accomplishments at the forefront, it will keep you top of mind for new opportunities or promotions.
6. Ask for the raise/promotion/new opportunity: This goes back to not being afraid to fail. There are opportunities out there that might be perfect for you (at the time, or perfect to grow into), but unless you tell your boss that you’re interested in pursuing more responsibility/opportunities, they won’t know to nominate you. Ask, “What do I have to do to get to be a part of..” and then do it.
7. If your company won’t support you, leave and find a place that will: You have the choice to work where you want. Businesses that are true advocates for inclusion and diversity. Businesses that are mission-driven and align with your morals. With the ability to choose where you want to work and what you want to do, power, satisfaction, and productivity come right along.

We believe in a future where gender equality in the workplace is no longer a necessary topic among leadership teams and HR departments. That’s why we are excited about the Mastercard Tech Hub partnership with Ellevate Network, a professional women’s organization that supports intentional networking and skill building for current and future leaders.

Together we’re taking action. By inspiring conversations, professional development and culture change, we create a springboard for our employees – both men and women-- to reach higher.

About the Authors

Betty DeVita serves as Chief Commercial Officer of Digital Payments & Labs at Mastercard. In this global role, Betty is responsible for commercializing Mastercard Labs assets. In 2014, Ms. DeVita was inducted into the Women’s Executive Network Hall of Fame as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women. Ms. DeVita holds a BS from St. John’s University and is a graduate of the CEO Certificate program at Wharton-KMA.

Kristy Wallace is the CEO of Ellevate Network, where she directs the Network’s staff, is responsible for business growth and strategy, and works closely to further Ellevate's impact. She is a regular speaker and thought leader on Leadership, Diversity, and Social Entrepreneurship. Kristy was recognized as a Woman of Influence by the New York Business Journal. She obtained her BA in English/Sociology from Villanova University.

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