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Women Get Results: In 2024 it’s time to support women in the corporate world

Written by Julie Castro Abrams



Women get results.

 

The bottom line is that engagement of women, consistently, in every measure I see, increases returns. In the boardroom, women up-level everyone which reduces risk and increases results. As business owners, women return 26% more for their investors. As CEOS, women command better share prices, just follow the WCEO ETF performance. Women have the expertise and necessary experience to bring innovative solutions to the table, so when women lead and we invest in women we are investing in blue ocean solutions with huge market upside potential. Just look at BabyQuip—they are changing the game for traveling families. On both sides of the marketplace BabyQuip capitalizes on the strength of women; 1) as decision makers about consumer products and planning family vacations and 2) as 2000 quality providers for BabyQuip.


I’m not the only one who knows this. That’s why Amazon, Visa, and others partnered with USAID to fund the Climate Gender Equity Fund (CGEF).  Their focus is on funding women finding solutions to climate change. Why? Women are the most affected by climate change and often aware of how to find creative solutions to combat the negative effects of climate change. The reason  to support and invest in women extends beyond just social good. These investments are yielding a high return. Just check out this report from McKinsey “Climate-related private-market investment far outpaced the broader market in 2022 as measured by deal activity, the amount of capital deployed, and capital flows into dedicated funds.” 


It is time to take the lessons we have learned from climate and support women across all sectors. Once we do that we will start to see more results like this study which shows “When boards of targeted companies had two or more female directors, the selling price of the firm increased by greater than 5% compared to boards with no women...” or see how women also help increase productivity and dedication in the workspace.


So why aren’t more women running the corporate world? And what should you do about it?


Reason 1: It’s easy to think you are actually diverse, but you aren’t. 

Just look at Devternity for an example. They broke headlines earlier when reports came out that they faked speaker profiles so that it looked like more women execs were speaking at the conference. When asked, they referred to “personas” and said this was representative of the type of speakers they would have. They wanted to use diversity without having diversity. 


Another example is how data shows people routinely overestimate how many women are actually in the room, leading to a false sense of diversity. The HowStuffWorks podcast co-host Tracy V Wilson knows this story well. After being told that the show had a female-centric slant and was over emphasizing the role of women she looked at data: 21% of the podcasts featured women. That is hardly overemphasis. Other studies show that when 17% of a room is women, men often think it is closer to 50%.  This makes it easier for them to dismiss diversity efforts by stating we already have done the work. Importantly for the women already in the room, they aren’t heard equally. Our bias discounts their participation. Remember the Harvard Business School effort to reduce gender inequity. Women, despite coming in with the same grades and experiences as their male peers, were falling behind in grades. Once stenographers began tracking what was actually said, gender bias grading fell away. 


What should you be doing?


Calling attention to this bias can be powerful. Ask the question and see how your company thinks they are doing and then bring in data to show where you actually are. Ask conference organizers about how they select speakers and ask about the diversity on panels. Consider following the lead women set at the Devternity and consider rejecting attending or speaking opportunities where conference organizers are not centering diversity. 


Reason 2: Groupthink and homogeneity creates a false sense of comfort. 

A lack of diverse thought can lead to serious issues. When groups evaluate new members based on consensus, lack of conflict, or cultural fit they are at risk of being blindsided by challenges they did not consider. So when does groupthink happen? “Groupthink typically occurs when a group is highly cohesive, insulated from outside opinions, and when there is a strong and directive leader. Symptoms of groupthink include self-censorship, stereotyping of out-group members, rationalization of group decisions, and the illusion of unanimity.” Disrupting groupthink is one of the major benefits of board room diversification—the diversity makes men perform better—it up games them, they prepare more for board meetings. And is essential in the closed rooms of venture investing. In fact when women are added to venture teams, performance increases.


I’m sure we have all experienced this at some point in our careers. 


So what should you be doing?


Support people, especially women, when they are bringing up ideas that run counter to the majority opinion. You don’t have to agree with it to appreciate them and thank them for bringing up the point. We need to move away from black and white thinking. Not all disagreement is conflict. Additionally, speak up when more voices may need to join the conversation. It is okay to say, “I think someone with a different lived experience would add value to this conversation, can we bring someone in to share?”


Together we can change corporate culture and create spaces that work for everyone. Women are going to be key to this effort and we need to support them. Make your voice heard and speak up in support of getting diverse thought leaders into the conversation. 


Reason 3: Women have to do more to prove themselves

Data shows nearly 82% of people think proving themselves is an obstacle for women seeking executive positions. It’s no surprise. Women often are navigating tightropes. Men are hired and promoted for their potential and women for what they have achieved. This has a huge impact on opportunities for people with the same skills and experience. Additionally, performance evaluations for women are often focussed on who they are, I have a friend who was put on a PIP—it was nothing more than a Personality Improvement Plan. Men receive feedback on skills they can use and their potential. Women receive feedback on who they need to be. Think about it—what was the last feedback you gave or received? Does it match with the data? Is the measuring stick the same? Have you reduced bias language and comments related to “cultural fit.”


So what should you be doing?

Sit down and think about who you are looking for in a role. Do you want a confident decision maker? Do you want someone who can bring folks together? Start writing down the skills or results that would show you someone has those skills. It’s time to stop measuring potential based on who a person is and start looking at the skills we need.

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