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Executive Women in Business

Like most of our leading companies, universities and research organisations are homogeneous at the leadership level. There are some great initiatives in Australian higher education and elsewhere to help promote equity and diversity in important target areas like science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM), for example the Athena Swan Charter in the UK and Australia’s SAGE pilot. There are still things you can do to increase the chances of success in developing your own career, and to help others.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.” Author Alicia Walker could be talking to many women today. We have generations of powerlessness in our genes, but it’s time to play catch up.

Being a search consultant with specific interest and keen focus on Women’s Leadership, I may tend to notice things a little more than most. While it may be largely a South Asian perspective, and cultural milieu, be it a conference, a chat , or an interview, the numbers of women “owning themselves” or “wading into it” are not as many as they should be.

#BeBoldForChange was the theme for 2017 International Women’s Day with a call to help forge a more inclusive, gender equal world.  Companies across the world took to social media to show their support with the cause and we saw a number of excellent profiles on senior female business leaders across media platforms, LinkedIn, YouTube, corporate websites and blogs.

“We aim to tap the vast talent pool of women professionals who had to leave their professional jobs for their family commitments. We plan to give such women an opportunity to re-start their professional career without disturbing their family priorities,” said the CEO of Bajaj Allianz, the Indian insurance firm, which launched all-women branches two years ago. Cut to the present, and you see offices buzzing with action – selling, processing, transacting – with the sole difference being that these are offices for women, of women, by women.

The vast benefits of establishing diversity among leaders in organizations is well documented and acknowledged across the globe. Organizations are more able to achieve success when their leadership teams match the diversity in their workplace, communities, customers, markets and stakeholders.

There are many high profile examples of companies who are publicly committing to increasing their levels of diversity. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, recently led the way at a special orientation session for the recipients of its WWDC Scholarship Program, stating that “I think the most diverse group will produce the best product, I firmly believe that.”

Heidrick & Struggles is actively engaged in helping companies with attracting and retaining diverse workforces. This in turn leads to clients’ increased financial performance since results are overwhelmingly positive for companies with a diverse board, diverse executive team and diverse employee base.

Through our work and conversations with corporations, we have seen the following best practices used effectively as companies address the issue of hiring, developing and retaining a diverse workforce.
 

Start with Commitment at the Top

BlueSteps chats with Catherine R. Bell, co-founder of BluEra executive search, and author of the new book The Awakened Company.

catherine_bellIn your book you say “few today would argue that ‘business as usual’ is working well.” How can individual executives and employees become ambassadors for driving more awakened company practices?

For more on the AESC's position on diversity, download the "Diversity as a Business Imperative" white paper.

Diversity matters. Most people know this inherently but introducing real and lasting change can be difficult. Issues relating to diversity are multi-layered and complex and require changes to culture, values, and decision-making processes at both the individual and organizational level. While diversity is an important business consideration for companies and political issue for governments, for individuals from underrepresented groups, it is of more personal, fundamental and lasting significance.

Does your company want a 25-50 percent or higher increase in performance? Research statistically shows that these improvements can come from talent solutions.

Let’s look at some of the research results for companies with diverse workforces:

Board

Asians are poorly represented in senior roles across the West. Research by the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) shows that a measly 1.9% of senior executives in ASX200 companies were of Asian descent even though they represent 9.6% of the general population. This situation is mirrored in other countries, including the USA and Canada. Asian Americans account for just 1.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 1.9% of corporate officers overall. So what are the causes and what can be done?