In order to improve your company's financial performance, provide a way forward for women to advance to senior positions. In its new study, Women Matter 2010, McKinsey & Company established the link between the presence of women in leadership and better financial results. This is the firm's fourth annual study addressing women and leadership.
Women Matter 2010
The study confirms the gender gap in top management and on executive committees, provides "fact-based" observations about how the gender gap impedes corporate success, identifies barriers to women's advancement, and makes recommendations for change. Why should companies care? Women Matter 2010 makes the case that women comprise a vital consumer base; provide a source of high quality talent in a competitive market; and have a positive impact on organizational and financial performance.
McKinsey reports that companies that succeed in advancing women do four things: "create transparency by implementing gender diversity indicators ... implement measures to facilitate work-life balance [flex hours and flex careers] ... adapt the human resources process ... help women master the dominant codes, and nurture their ambition." The report concludes that "Interviews with companies that are champions of gender diversity reveal that their efforts in this area amount to nothing less than a cultural revolution." That the change program must be driven by top management and be CEO led.
Women and Boards
Prominent organizations like Catalyst and WomenCorporateDirectors play an important role in showcasing companies that have women on their governing boards. Additionally, there are a plethora of informal women's networks designed to connect women to boards.
Although corporate boards are still fairly inaccessible to many well qualified women, my experience in training and placing hundreds of business professionals and executives on nonprofit boards and consulting to nonprofit boards reveals that there is no glass ceiling when it comes to nonprofit boards. Nonprofit boards welcome women as well as men who have the skills and experience that is needed, along with an ability to meet the board's expectations. Furthermore, in almost every case, if a woman is willing to take responsibility for a leadership position and has demonstrated her ability, the board is quite pleased to support her.
Through nonprofit board experiences—global, national, and regional—women have unique opportunities to develop leadership, learn about causes in which they have a personal interest, advance missions in which they have a passion, work with people who are influential and effective, and engage with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Not only do women "amass their governance capital" by serving on nonprofit boards, but it is not unusual for women on prominent nonprofit boards to be discovered by fellow board members for corporate boards.
Comments: Successful Women Who Advance Women
For reactions the McKinsey study, I reached out to three highly successful women who have fully committed themselves, both personally and professionally, to mentoring and preparing women to ascend to leadership. Here's what they said.
"I seized on this quote in the study: 'Interestingly, women respondents identified a third important barrier: the reticence of many women to advocate for themselves.' This is an issue that needs to be tackled head on. One organization that's doing so is The OpEd Project, an initiative to broaden the range of voices in public discourse, starting with getting more women on the nation's op-ed pages—which, like corporate boards, are mostly male, generally less than 20%. I attended one of The OpEd Project's public seminars a few years ago after reading about it in The New York Times, and was so inspired that I've not only published a few op-eds since then, but recently joined their advisory board.
"Despite its name, The OpEd Project isn't just about writing opinion pieces—it's about getting us to own our expertise and convey why it matters. As the McKinsey study points out, women aren't making it to the C-Suite because of our failure to do that. All the corporate initiatives in the world can't compensate for a failure to drive our own advancement."
- Christine Bader, Advisory Board Member, The OpEd Project
"The McKinsey study clearly outlines the benefits of women in the workplace, especially at C-level positions—and how action must follow the intention to gender-diversify. This is precisely why The White House Project will launch a formal corporate training program in 2011: so that women can more fully bring their unique leadership skills and influence into business, resulting in greater return on equity, diverse leadership, and greater opportunity for everyone."
- Tiffany Dufu, President, The White House Project
"It's great to see that McKinsey is approaching the advancement of women from the structural side of things. It's also important to think about what women can do on their own. My advice: Find mentors at every stage of your career, and don't limit yourself to those who are older than you. Cross generational mentorship can run both ways - imagine a senior woman who can share her perspective, wisdom and contacts with an up-and-comer who can coach on the latest social networking trends."
In Women Matter 2010, McKinsey addressed a matter and made statements that—not long ago - would have been considered controversial at the most, and bold at the least. This study, the exciting new leadership at The White House Project and their expansion to corporate services, the power of the OpEd Project, the proliferation of women's groups interested in boards, and the growing self-consciousness of businesses about the number of women on their boards ... this is progress. Women and men, let's keep this going. It's good for shareholders and good for the world.