“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Over the past five years, the number of women in senior leadership in the corporate world has grown. Yet, according to “Lean In,” women continue to be underrepresented at every level. Only 38% of managers in the corporate world and only 21% of the c-suite are female. Among S&P 500 companies, this number is even less. Catalyst reports that women account for only 5.8% of CEO positions.
Although progress has been made in terms of female leaders in business, it is important that we still consider Justice Ginsberg’s words and how we consciously need to apply that to our world today. When women are at all levels of leadership in an organization, the company benefits from more diverse problem-solving and different skill sets. This translates to increased productivity, more competitive advantages and a stronger bottom line.
In order to empower and cultivate female leadership, businesses need to be intentional and prioritize results.
- Evaluate hiring practices – It is important that companies review their hiring processes on a regular basis. How do you find qualified candidates, and are you able to evaluate candidates fairly? Everyone has their own biases, so a diverse hiring team will help eliminate any prejudice.
- Focus on culture – Companies that focus on a positive work/life balance are better aligned to attract and retain women. Flexible work hours, remote working and flexible paid time off are all strategies that appeal to women.
- Review pay ranges – On average, women earn 81.6 cents for every dollar a man makes. If women earn less from the beginning of their careers, they will always be playing catch-up even as they receive promotions. Businesses must perform periodic compensation reviews to ensure equal pay for equal work and that women and minorities are not negatively impacted.
- Promote from within – Companies that promote from within the organization are able to be more efficient and save both time and money. Having a strong program to develop future leaders is key to the success of any organization. It is important that management is forward thinking and focused on growing future leaders.
- Encourage mentorship – Whether formalized affinity groups or informal peer mentoring, women benefit from building relationships with other women. When women come together, they can find a safe space of belonging in an organization, regardless of the size. Mentors are able encourage each other and this natural process leads to leadership development and a more inclusive environment.
- Listen to all voices – Women often have a different working style than men. It is important that companies respect that and pay attention to the differences. Women should not have to conform to male leadership styles. Progressive businesses recognize this and develop future leaders by building on the individual’s unique strengths as opposed to one approach.
Justice Ginsberg was right: Women do belong in the places where decisions are made. But change does not happen overnight. Companies need to be intentional and work to ensure that future leaders are developed based on their skills, performance and talents, and not their gender. Bringing the diverse perspectives of both men and women to an organization benefits everyone.
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