America’s melting pot is more like a meltdown when it comes to equal representation in positions of power. Gender is still a major factor we when we examine the lack of diversity at the top, and for women of color the numbers are even worse.
The number of women in executive positions and in political office has remained stagnant for a decade at less than 20%. In a recent article, Catalyst reported that women currently hold just 4.6% of CEO positions at S&P 500 Companies, they represent only 9.5 % of the top earners, and the Center for Women in Politics reports that women are less than 20% of the US Congress.
Our country is stuck in traditional approaches to solving the problem. Doing nothing, paying lip-service through a token position or program, or parking the diversity issue in HR is not the solution. To bring about change we need to start with the WIFM (what’s in it for me) for the ones we’re selling on the idea of diversity: people in positions of power.
A recent study from McKinsey shows a strong correlation between improved financial performance and diversity at the executive level. A 2015 report from the McKinsey Global Institute estimates gender equality represents a $12 trillion economic opportunity. So there are two big WIFMs for corporate america.
To get the benefits of women at the top, CEOs will need to apply a few targeted strategies:
- Dedicated leadership training for women
- Active executive sponsoring of talented women
- Multi-level mentoring programs inside and outside the company
- Awareness training on unintended bias
- Educational investment for women in STEM
- Progressive family policies for men and women
This list is certainly not comprehensive, but it would be a great step in the right direction for ensuring gender diversity at the top.