Want to Boost Company Profits in 2017? Get More Women Leaders

Want to Boost Company Profits in 2017? Get More Women Leaders
From Recruiter - January 4, 2017

The next timethe executive leaders at your organization get together, take a look around the room. (Or, if your position on the corporate ladder means you dont attend these meetings, navigate to the section of the company website where executive bios are listed.) How many women are in the room (or on that webpage)?

Chances are the number is pretty slim: According to the Center for American Progress, women hold roughly 52 percent of all professional-level jobs in America, but they only account for 14.6 percent of executive officers and 16.9 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies.

Your business may be doing just fine with a male-dominated C-suite, but it would probably do even better if there were more gender parity in the leadership ranks, according to Melissa Greenwell.

Greenwell is executive vice president and chief operating officer at shoe retailer Finish Line, Inc.She is also a certified executive coach, a speaker, and the author of Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership.While many texts on the gender disparity at the top levels of corporate America approach the issue through a sociocultural lens,Money on the Table takes a different tack.

My view on gender balance in corporate leadership roles does not come from an academic or social perspective, but from a grounded, experienced executives point of view, Greenwell writes early in the book. The reason we need the change has to do with money.

Greenwell cites multiple sources to back up her argument, including a number of studies that have consistently found that organizations with more gender-balanced leadership teams tend to exceed average market capitalization.

Late last month, Greenwell and I had a conversation about her book, which aims tobe the go-to resource for corporate leaders in need of concrete strategies for achieving gender parity. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, minimally edited for style and clarity. central thesis of your book could be summed up with this line of yours:Gender imbalances in leadership dilute business performance. Could you expand on that a bit?

Melissa Greenwell:Its not to say that businesses that dont have gender balance in leadership dont perform well. Rather, the premise is that if we have more gender balance in leadership, we will be more productive and more profitable.

It really relates to brain science. Mens and womens brains are physically different, which causes the genders to be predisposed to different ways of thinking, different ways of problem solving, and different levels of intuitiveness. If were missing eithergender from the room, then we are probably not getting our best problem solving, and therefore, we are not creating thebest solutions for our customers and clients.

RC:That reminds me of another idea that comes up in the book, which is that when your leadership team doesnt look like the customers youre serving, it can lead to some problems. Why is that?

MG:One of the CEOs I interviewed was running the beauty division of a major drug store, and he realized that all of the people on his team making decisions around what products to buy for women were largely men. Youre probably not making the best decisions for your customers if you cant easily and directly relate to them.

RC: As you make clear in the book, you approach the issue of gender imbalance from a monetary, business-oriented perspective. Why did you take that approach above all else?

MG:First of all, the world is composed of roughly 50 percent women and 50 percent men, so women are not a minority. Diversity initiatives generally have been focused on efforts to get more minority groups involved and hired, and I really think this particular challenge is a little different. Its easier to solve.

I dont think its something we should put under the broad umbrella of diversity, because weve been going at this from a diversity perspective for decades, and it has moved the needle very slowly. I think the problem will be more easily solved for if we understand the kinds of thinking and problem solving and solutions were missing because we dont have both genders in the room.

RC: While conducting research for the book, you interviewed 30 CEOs. Fifteen were men and 15 were women. Can you talk a little bit about the differences between these groups, with respect to their feelings on the matter of gender imbalance in leadership?

MG:When you take all of them combined, there were really two groups of thought.

First, there were the leaders who clearly understood the advantages of having gender balance in leadership. I would say roughly 50 percent of the male executives were in that group, and so were all of the female leaders I interviewed.

The people that get it are the people who have been taking action for a long time now toward having more gender balance in leadership.


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