Every woman knows how few women successfully rise to the C-suite. But this can change. In her new book, “Money On The Table,” Melissa Greenwell, executive vice president and chief operating officer of national retailer The Finish Line, Inc., provides five rules for women who want a seat at the table as top executives.
- Speak first.
- Stop apologizing.
- Stay in control.
- Give up the guilt.
- Play to Win.
“You are leaving money on the table and forfeiting your strategic advantage if you don’t have women well represented on your boards and senior management teams,” Greenwell said. “My view on gender balance in corporate leadership roles does not come from an academic or social perspective, but from a grounded, experienced executive’s point of view. The reason we need the change has to do with money.”
Greenwell is also a certified executive coach who helps women and men understand how they can leverage natural strengths to identify and make behavioral changes that help them succeed as senior leaders. She presents a powerful case for placing more women in leadership positions, along with a step-by-step blueprint for achieving this critical goal in “Money On The Table.”
Drawing on the latest research and in-depth interviews with CEOs and other senior leaders, Greenwell shows that companies with gender-balanced boards and more women in senior management consistently achieve better financial performance. She also demonstrates that it is only by leveraging the strengths of men and women together that organizations can attain the highest levels of “collective intelligence,” a key factor in group performance. With many companies around the world setting defined targets for getting more women into leadership roles, the United States is falling behind our global competition, the author warned.
Greenwell’s 10 steps for attaining greater gender balance – most of which carry no monetary cost – are:
- Don’t accept that there aren’t enough female candidates for your senior leadership roles. There may not be as many as you’d like, but they are out there. This may mean looking at people with a different industry perspective or an atypical resume.
- Increase your pipeline of female talent across the organization. Keep track of where you recruit, who gets promoted, and who gets stretch assignments so you can push for more gender balance in every area of the business.
- Take more risks on your female employees. High-potential women often operate under the radar. Take a second look at those who aren’t raising a hand but need to be called upon.
- Create an employment brand that attracts more females and retains the ones you’ve got. The women you want to recruit take notice of how the company positions itself relative to them and to your customers. They will also look at whether or not your environment lets people work the way they want to work.
- Keep your female talent. Do your practices and programs support women? Do you consider the real cost of not providing generous family leaves? Do you have a work-life integration strategy? Don’t confuse face time with productivity.
- Mentor your high-potential females. Every executive in your company should be a mentor to your high-potential staff, and an effective mentoring program demands structure.
- Identify and communicate criteria for successful leadership. You need firm criteria that describe exactly what traits and behaviors are priorities for your firm. These will include some more frequently exhibited by men (action orientation, risk taking), and some more frequently exhibited by women (visioning, collaborating, intuition).
- Establish a succession plan. Any organization needs a succession plan for leadership, and gender balance is an essential component of this plan if you want the best thinking.
- Measure progress. Set goals for gender balance in your organization. Keep the metrics in front of you, and, annually, conduct a comprehensive talent review with your senior leadership team.
- Communicate all of the above, clearly and often. Once you have a plan for achieving gender balance, make sure these actions are not a secret. A well-thought-out communication plan that starts at the top is a must.