When I think back to my adolescent days, dreaming of what I would be when I grow up, I distinctly remember the Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford movie Working Girl. In the 1988 film, Griffith’s spunky secretary pretends she has her boss’ (Signourney Weaver) job and proves that—despite foibles and gender bias—regular girls can rise to corporate greatness. At the ripe old age of 11, I remember thinking, “I can be that girl” (minus the conniving power plays and meet-cutes).
Over the past five decades, companies have seen a gradual surge of women entering the workforce—from a third of American employees in the 1950s to 47% of workers today. Despite women comprising nearly half of all U.S. employees, only 4-out-of-10 executive positions are filled by women and only 4% as CEOs. Here’s a look at why your business needs more successful women in business and the boardroom. (Hint: It makes dollars and sense.)
Financial stability and growth
A report by the Credit Suisse Research firm revealed that companies with a largely male executive team recovered at a slower rate that those with a balanced male-female employee ratio. Another second report, this one by Cataclyst, showed that Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women attained “significantly higher financial performance.” And, if that wasn’t enough, a 19-year study by the European Project on Equal Pay, showed that companies with the best record of promoting women to high positions are 18-69% more profitable.
Real-world business and financial acumen
Women have been running the business of family for thousands of years. Today, 70% of household purchasing decisions are made by women—an incredible $20 trillion of consumer spending globally. And not just groceries and clothes; women make the major household purchasing decisions, including cars, homes and investments. If 50% of the American workforce is women, and those women make the majority of the decisions that impact our economy as a whole, the rationale follows that the boardroom should follow suit.
Executives everywhere walk a fine line between collaboration and being the boss, regardless of whether that executive is a man or woman. A few studies, however, prove that women have the edge in the company culture department:
- Female managers are significantly rated better than their male counterparts in not just soft skills, like communication and empowerment, but also in decisiveness, planning and setting standards.
- Trust in female leaders is higher than that of their male counterparts.
- Women in leadership are more empathetic and flexible, and female executives rank stronger in interpersonal skills that foster inclusiveness, openness, consensus building and collaboration.
According to recent findings by Ogilvy Public Relations and Georgetown University, 8-in-10 American women believe that supporting causes creates a sense of purpose and meaning in life. And out of the 45% of Americans that are actively involved in supporting causes, the vast majority are women. With sustainability and social good at the top of global business’ to-do lists, female executives have proven themselves as leaders in corporate philanthropy, so… it just makes, sense to have more women on your board, right?
Both women and men still have a lot of work to do to improve the number of women in the boardroom, but with STEM, leadership programs and amazing educational opportunities, we’re going to see many more working girls—and successful women in business —rising through the ranks. Our world needs them.