We all have been hearing statistics about women in business–or rather the lack of them at high levels–to our dismay for quite awhile so this new study by Peterson Institute for International Economics is not “news.” It does cover a wider international scope than many studies, indicating how pervasive this issue is for all women around the world.
- Almost 30% of 22,000 firms in 92 countries have NO women on their boards or in C-suite positions.
- 60% had no female board members.
- Over 50% had no women in executive positions.
- Those companies with at least 30% women in top positions show higher profits than those with lower representation.
The biggest news I saw in this CNN Money article about the study, by Jeanne Sahadi, was not the article itself but her video covering Kathleen McCarthy, a top executive at Blackstone (managing 63 billion business) and a mother of two. Kathleen, like Sheryl Sandberg COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, pushes to exemplify that women can have both–a high power career and a family.
Having women role models is vital to young women entering the business world, if they are to believe it is possible. Yet, the most important take-away from the video was not Kathleen’s ability to juggle both roles but her bosses view of women in business.
Creating an environment hospitable to women is key.
Tony James, COO of Blackstone, holds the type of views that will turn the tide of whether more women stay in the corporate world and rise to positions of power and influence within it. Some of his points:
- Women need to believe they can be themselves and make a difference in an organization, not have to become bravado and masculine to succeed.
- Larger number of women in his organization helps his profitability; it is not a “do good” act or pretense to look good.
- Many of his customers are women and having women in his organization allows him to better match his customers.
- Most women have an opportunity cost of working that men do not experience because most women still do most of the child rearing and “home-making.” Tony feels companies need to create environments that make that easier for women to stay engaged so his company has added lactation rooms, emergency day care options and other perks beyond maternity leave.
Working harder is not the answer.
Although impressive when women find the strength, will, and energy to put in long hours at work (and later again at night) and still contribute to their role as mother, asking women to step up and do more has been the approach we have held for the past 40+ years and it has only yielded where we are today. Thus far working harder has not gained us the representation in higher positions because it doesn’t take into account the desire and need for a woman to be with her children and participate in their lives–often during working hours, or the other things a mother juggles.
The attitude Kathleen’s boss has towards creating an environment hospitable to women climbing the corporate ladder and staying is the change we need to see. In fact, in the study by the Peterson Institute a big corollary to higher percentages of women on corporate boards was paternity leave! How we create women friendly businesses will require a rethinking of business and it will result in happier families, stronger businesses, and a more resilient economy!
Watch the video and maybe share it with the men you know.