Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

For Business, More Women in Charge Means Bigger Profits

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

For Business, More Women in Charge Means Bigger Profits

Article excerpt

LONDON * When Rohini Anand took over diversity programs at multinational catering company Sodexo in 2002, she had one goal: Prove that it pays for a company to have equal numbers of male and female managers.

Sodexo, which has 419,000 employees in 80 countries, says she's done just that. A company-wide study last year found that units with equal numbers of men and women in management roles delivered more profits more consistently than those dominated by men.

"It has become embedded now. It's not just me talking about it anymore," Anand says with "I told you so" satisfaction.

Evidence is growing that gender equity is just good business. Companies are trying to increase the number of women in executive positions, yet many are struggling to do so because of a failure to adapt workplace conditions in a way that ensures qualified women do not drop off the corporate ladder, surveys show.

The case for companies to act is compelling.

In a survey last year of 366 companies, consultancy McKinsey & Co. found that those whose leadership roles were most balanced between men and women were more likely to report financial returns above their national industry median.

Companies with more balanced leadership do a better job recruiting and retaining talented workers, reducing the costs associated with replacing top executives, McKinsey found. They also have stronger customer relations because management better reflects the diversity of society, and they tend to make better business decisions because a wider array of viewpoints is considered.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who came out as gay last year, told PBS it was important to hire people who "complement you, because you want to build a puzzle."

"You don't want to stack Chiclets up and have everyone be the same," he said.

Though most big companies have programs to increase gender diversity, many executives express frustration that these programs aren't working. McKinsey found that 63 percent of the employers it surveyed had at least 20 initiatives to address gender equity, but women held less than a quarter of the top jobs in 92 percent of the companies.

Sandrine Devillard, who has been studying the issue for the consultancy for about 16 years, said companies were nonchalant about retaining top female talent when she started. Now they want to know what programs work. Fast.

That's because a woman's prospects for promotion fall off at every step of the career ladder, according to a separate survey of 130 large companies conducted by McKinsey in 2012. While women made up 37 percent of the total workforce, they comprised 22 percent of middle managers, 14 percent of senior managers and vice presidents, 9 percent of executive committee members and 2 percent of CEOs.

In France, Norway, Spain and most recently Germany, governments have sought to mandate progress by imposing quotas for women on boards.

Norway had the highest percentage of women on boards 35 percent among 20 countries in Western Europe, North America and the Asia- Pacific region last year, according to data compiled by Catalyst, which researches gender equity. The U.S. and Australia were tied for 10th at 19 percent.

Board quotas alone won't close the gender gap because they address only the final step in the career ladder, researchers say. The real challenge for employers is to hire, train and promote talented women so they have a pipeline of qualified female candidates when they need to fill senior roles.

"We're on the cusp of a revolution," says Cary Cooper, a professor at Lancaster University Management School in Britain. "If organizations don't allow more flexibility, more autonomy, they're just going to keep losing (women)."

The average workplace remains locked in a post-war factory mentality with structured hours and a requirement to be at the office and the expectation to keep working from home even when not physically present, researchers say. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.