I’ve often reported on women in business and like to spread the word on why big (and small) business should continue to work hard to attract, retain, and promote the women in their ranks. Bottom line: It’s all about the numbers.
Companies Still Don’t Properly Represent Their Customer
Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies steadily hire women, and many reach leadership roles, but many companies still fail to fully represent their customer base: a broad range of consumers, not just whites, and more women than men making those buying decisions.
Consider the following data:
- Women drive 70 to 80 percent of all consumer purchasing
- Women are more likely than men to hold a bachelor’s degree
- Women make up 51 percent of the US population, according to the recent census
And yet we also know the 2016 data from Catalyst, a leading nonprofit group, still shows that within Fortune 500 companies women make up only:
- 4.4 percent of CEOs
- 25 percent of senior executives
- 36 percent of managers
More Women in Management Helps Improve The Bottom Line
The data also shows that having equal numbers of men and women in leadership positions, on boards, and in management helps a company become (and remain) prosperous. Catalyst the nonprofit organization, found that corporations with more women on boards improve their financial performance—a big finding given that the 2016 figures show only 30.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies have women and minority board members.
Women also leave their jobs more frequently than men. Catalyst finds 50 percent of women engineers left their jobs because of lack of advancement when losing women (and any employee) costs a company a lot. The Harvard Business Review found 41 percent of women vs. 17 percent of men working in tech eventually leave the field—when replacement turnover costs can equal 50 to 60 percent of an employee’s annual salary.
Big Companies Are Trying To Create Change
Growing numbers of companies like Nike and Deloitte now offer more generous, longer paid family leave to encourage more men and women to continue their careers around parenthood. And most large companies offer women leadership and mentorship programs. A new, promising Nielsen Study also finds millennial women vs. older women feel more gender equality exists in the workplace in terms of pay and treatment.
Yet, we must also acknowledge that culture may prevent big change from taking place, at least not right away. New research from the Pew Research Center offers companies insight into why employees may not take paid leave, no matter how generous. The survey showed most respondents (especially those earning $30,000 and under) felt afraid of losing their job or not getting promoted. The study also showed many respondents feeling they couldn’t take paid time off because nobody else could do their job.
The earlier Nielsen study also found 66 percent of women (across all ages) feel women leaders must work harder (than men) to prove themselves once they reach senior level roles.
This piece I wrote for Guardian Sustainable Business offers great insight into the cultural pressures at play when stubborn gender imbalance exists at work.