Celebrating Women’s History Month goes beyond March since women are making history every day. Regularly recognizing and celebrating their extraordinary achievements is critical least we forget. Where would we be if the women noted below had gone unnoticed?
Katherine Johnson, a math genius working in Space Task Group, was critical to John Glenn’s successful space flight and, until recently, went unrecognized. Grace Hopper was the computer scientist who invented the first programming language and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. Rosa Parks and other women of color had the courage to challenge the status quo when they refused to sit in the “colored” section of a bus which ultimately led to the civil rights movement. Shonda Rhimes was named one of Time magazine’s "100 People Who Help Shape the World" for her ground-breaking TV series. Marie Curie was the first women to win a Nobel Prize and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. Sally Ride was the first American (and youngest) woman to go into space. Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Carman Perez and Bob Bland mobilized 6 million people on January 21, 2017 worldwide to advocate legislation and policies regarding human rights and other issues. And then there are the unsung heroines who, every day, make a significant difference in their own worlds. Every day they perform heroic acts: being a single mom, running for public office, advocating for causes to increase people’s well-being, running businesses, being caregivers, giving birth, and helping shape the values of future generations. Given all their accomplishments, women still struggle to gain recognition in the business world. The irony is that research study after research study consistently points to the fact that when there’s a gender diversity, companies are financially and organizationally more successful. One has to ask the question: “women continue to experience inequalities in “voice”, advancement opportunities, and compensation?” Much has been written about the importance of increasing gender diversity. Going beyond common sense, there are some tangible benefits for companies to “get over it” and seriously embrace gender equality. Here are three reasons to add to the conversation: 1. Increased success Increased success has been talked about frequently. But let's get specific:
How does an increase of 42% higher return on sales and 53% higher return on equity sound?
Or, fewer incidents of “breaking of the rules” that lead to significant financial risks sound?
How about higher retention of high performers?
Diversity leads to increased innovation which is necessary given today’s competitive business environment.
These are a few and compelling reasons for c-suite executives to lead the charge in creating a work environment that supports the advancement of women. This helps fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to continue to expand their companies’ profitability. 2. Competitive employment environment Today’ hiring environment for highly skilled individuals is competitive and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. When projecting future workforce needs, a little known fact is that women earn 57% undergraduate degrees; 62% of masters degrees; and 53% of post graduate degrees. Creating an environment that attracts and retains high performing women, then, is a critical strategic workforce planning issue. A positive work environment goes beyond free food, relaxed working conditions, bringing dogs to work, and foosball. Those are easy things to do. Creating a culture that soundly rejects sexual harassment, evaluates women based on performance, encourages honesty in acknowledging and addressing unconscious biases, and actively prepares women to assume executive leadership roles are fundamental to attracting and retaining high performing women. 3. Reputation on the street The reputation of a company influences its ability to hire high performing individuals and gain or maintain consumer support leading to greater profitability. The power of social media puts companies and their leaders under intense scrutiny. Previously, organizations (and/or their CEOs) were able to fly below the radar screen and, in many cases, their infractions remained unnoticed. Between lawsuits and consumer “activists” groups such as #grabyourwallet, companies and their leaders are being held accountable for their actions and rightfully so. The situation Uber is currently facing is a prime example of the importance of maintaining a good reputation. Approximately 200,000 people dropped Uber’s app because of its behavior during the taxi drivers’ strike in protest of the first immigration ban. The blog by a former female engineer revealed a toxic work environment especially for women. And, then there was the tape of the CEO yelling at an Uber driver. These are several of the crises that are having a significant impact on Uber’s reputation and financial performance. As Martha and the Vandellas said: Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Striving for gender inclusion is no longer a luxury. It goes beyond “doing the right thing”. The combined efforts of both women and men has the potential to create organizations, communities, societies and countries in which everyone thrives. One and one is more than two – it’s eleven!