The keys to building female bench strength
We have all heard the statistics: those companies that have more women in leadership positions and on their board of directors outperform those that have less or none. Outperform in terms of return on sales (42% higher) and return on equity (53 percent). In addition, the economic power of women is on the rise, women make at least 80% of the buying decisions, and in today’s economy women are rapidly replacing men as major income earners and breadwinners in their families.
With statistics like those you can understand why companies and industries are working hard to become more female friendly. Yet with all the information out there on why the need to do it, what they need to do and how they need to implement it, you would think their results would be far better than they are. In today’s business world, according to a study done by the Center for American Progress) women hold 52% of all professional level jobs, yet they represent just 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. In addition, we hold just 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board seats.
So what is the problem, where the obstacle is, and why companies and leaders are want to promote and develop women are their words not matching their results. Because if you want to promote more women, then you need to change your strategy if you want to change your result.
- Ask Why – not why you are being told you need to do it, but why as a company or as a business owner you want to be more female friendly. Why you want to do more to attract, retain and develop female leaders, and why you want to attract and retain more female clients. Before you can commit to something, you have to ask yourself why you want to do this and if it is important in the overall success of your company. You to answer that question for yourself, and to provide a sense of purpose to your team and your organization.
- Prioritize & Commit – you need a strategy, a plan, and you need to commit the energy and the resources to it. If you want to make change at this level, then it needs to become an area of focus and it needs to be a priority. Who you place in charge of this strategy, how often it is discussed at the corporate level, and how closely the leadership holds themselves accountable for results speaks volumes to women about the company’s commitment to female leadership.
- Just Own It – to change the conversation you need to embrace the reality of it. Take a long hard look at your current programs, your current results and your current focus on your strategy. Ask yourselves and grade yourselves on how it is going? Just own the fact that what you’re doing may not be working, and take a long hard look in the mirror as to why. Ignoring the problem will not fix it, in fact it will make it worse, and you need to take some time and really study why women are not succeeding or choosing to go into leadership in your company.
- Go To the Source – if you want to create a great program to put women on top, then go the source to create it – go to a woman. It may sound sexist, it may sound politically incorrect, but the truth is how we succeed as women, our climb up the corporate ladder is different. So if you want to know how to put more women on top, then put a woman in charge.
- Two Way Street – as much as a company wants to promote more women, at the end of the day the power to make it happen lies with our female associates. So promoting more women needs to be a two-way street, and the need to have some skin in the game. When you build your program to put more women on top, engage your female workforce right from the start, ask for their ideas and opinions, and most importantly put some of the responsibility to make it happen on their back!
Yes, I find that most companies and leaders have the best intentions, a true desire to promote and develop women yet they fall short not from lack of trying, but from putting energy into a failed strategy. Follow these five steps, put more women on top, and you will find yourself winning in the trust and value economy!
Meridith Elliott Powell is an internationally certified coach, speaker, and business development expert. Founder and owner of MotionFirst, she helps executives and business owners build cultures that make sales fun, easy and incredibly productive. An award-winning business owner, Meridith’s unique background includes high-level leadership and executive positions in sales, marketing and finance. Her signature style and her ability to rapidly connect with people make her a sought-after speaker, coach and strategist.