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Cracking the Code on Gender Equity

Why have so many companies failed to make much progress when it comes to achieving gender parity in their senior ranks? Perhaps even more important than looking back, what really needs to happen next to grow the pool of female talent at the executive ranks, so that we can finally achieve gender equity at the C-level and in our boardrooms?

I get asked these questions in almost every meeting I have with SHAMBAUGH’s clients when it comes to strategizing about how to improve gender equity in their company. While the solution isn’t simple, this quote from Albert Einstein can guide us in the right direction: “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

With this wisdom in mind, it’s time that we crack the ceiling of only around one-third of women—34 percent—in senior management roles, and in the tech industry in particular that reportedly has only 11 percent of women execs at Fortune 500 companies. (Some tech firms are pushing hard to do better than this—I just learned that SAP reached its goal to have one in four management positions at the company filled by women—yet we still have a long way to go.)

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Inclusive Leaders Do These 4 Things—Do You?

If you want your organization to succeed today, then you must find ways to make inclusive leadership more than just a buzzword. But how can management teams ensure that all voices are on deck, particularly in light of challenges like this Catch-22 that an executive pointed out to me recently?

One way is to recognize that the traditional views on creating a diverse workforce based solely on creating more balance and fairness in demographic categories such as gender, age, and race are no longer sufficient—that threshold is too low. Successful inclusion now needs to go beyond the moral and legal imperative of simply integrating people with different demographics into the workplace.

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Who You Know Matters as Much as What You Know—Women Can Advance Their Career Through Sponsorship

Over the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak at several conferences and client organizations with one common request: to address what really drives women’s career growth and advancement. While we all know that there is no single “quick fix” that will instantly create gender-balanced leadership, one important factor that facilitates better balance is providing sponsorship opportunities for your top female talent.

In SHAMBAUGH’s work with talented female leaders, we’ve found that while high-potential women generally have strong and supportive professional relationships, these tend to fall under the category of mentors—advisors who serve as role models, providing perspective and constructive criticism. But when it comes to understanding the importance of developing relationships with potential sponsors—key high-level decision-makers who are able to go beyond mentoring to advocate on women’s behalf in relation to strategic opportunities and advancement—female leaders still tend to shortchange themselves.

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Where Are the Women? The 30 Percent Solution

My hope is that if you’ve been following my blog, I’ve made the business case that Integrated Leadership will separate tomorrow’s successful organizations from those that will be left behind. The concept of integrated leadership—men and women working synergistically together on leadership teams and boards—is simple enough to explain but not always easy to implement. Yet when companies remember that gender-balanced leadership improves business results,they will hopefully be motivated to stay the course in striving to achieve this leadership model.

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How Can We Do Better for Women’s Leadership in 2016?

I recently read an inspiring post on the Catalyst website by two female GE managers, Cara Hume and Nancy Dunn. In the post, Hume and Dunn explained how asking the simple question “How can we do better” led their senior leadership team to make significant changes in the company’s policies, benefits, and culture this year.

The post explains how the pair had reflected with their boss, Susan Peters, senior VP of HR at GE, on their experience of trying to juggle and flex their work with the rest of their life. Peters challenged them to think about how the company could do better when it came to parental leave, family care, flexible work arrangements, and more.

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Should U.S. Follow Europe’s Lead for Gender Quotas on Boards?

There’s some big news this month on the gender-inclusion front. On March 6, Germany approved a new quota that will require some of the largest multinational companies in Europe to ensure that women occupy 30 percent of their board seats. Currently, the New York Times reports that women hold less than 20 percent of boardroom seats in Germany, which is home to corporate behemoths including BMW, Volkswagen, Daimler (the maker of Mercedes-Benz), Deutsche Bank, and Siemens.

Germany is far from the first in Europe to legislate boardroom quotas—Norway, Spain, France, Iceland, Italy, and the Netherlands have already done so, with Norway mandating the highest percentage of women on boards at 40 percent back in 2008. But many consider Germany to be the most significant country thus far to make this tangible commitment to improving women’s representation on corporate boards. The Times reported that “the measure has the potential to substantially alter the landscape of corporate governance here and to have repercussions far beyond Germany’s borders.”

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Why Aren’t More Women Landing Board Seats?

Abercrombie & Fitch recently nominated four new independent director candidates to the company’s board—all of whom are women. Their election would make 33% of Abercrombie’s board female, which is around twice the national average. While an increasing number of corporate boards give lip service to diversifying their ranks, the latest Catalyst Census showed the U.S. weighing in below eight other countries, with only 16.9% of women on boards in corporate America. Less than one-fifth of organizations had one-quarter or more female directors in both 2012 and 2013. One-tenth of companies had zero women on their boards. What’s more, for the past two years, less than a quarter of companies had three or more women serving jointly on their boards.

Over the years that Catalyst has been charting these trends, there has been little to no increase in women’s board participation, making Abercrombie’s relatively high percentage of potential female board members stand out all the more. Could Abercrombie’s bold move put pressure on other organizations to do the same? From a business standpoint, every company in the nation would be smart to follow suit. A separate report from Catalyst that examines The Bottom Line revealed Fortune 500 companies that had three or more women board directors in at least four of five years significantly outperformed companies with zero female board directors. The former firms experienced an 84% better return on sales, 60% better return on invested capital, and 46% better return on equity compared to the latter.

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