I provide lectures and training for major corporations, as well as high growth business owners, about the positive impact of gender diversity. It is important to look around the room and actually visualize the representation of your customers/clients on your advisory or corporate board, so you can expand your business and attract your target market. 

However, throughout my former career in corporate America, and in my current role as a founder of a global company, I often walk into rooms which are fully void of women, millennials, others from various cultures, sexual orientation and racial backgrounds. Then, I ask -- "Where are the women in the room?" The response is an awkward chuckle that cannot be ignored. 

This reality impacted me in 2015 when I was hired to give a keynote talk for an executive peer group and I was the only woman in the room discussing women in leadership. There was an awkwardness that covered the room as we discussed gender diversity, pay disparity, the motherhood penalty and much more. The issue of a diverse board, with gender equity, seemed to raise eyebrows as the attendees did not recognize how they completely ignored the issue of inclusion. 

Why is this important?

Corporate board representation within most reputable companies are referral based - in other words, men who recommend other men in their inner circle to fill voids on the board. There is nothing equitable about a referral system that excludes an entire target market, especially when you are seeking growth. This work is complex and requires constant vigilance and innovation. Starbucks stated in their announcement, "We're fighting against centuries of systemic bias that we can't solve alone. We must continue to break down the barriers that have created the current pay gap, and partner with others to drive the same change in their organizations so together we create a cultural shift."

Starbucks' move is simply good for business.

There is no complicated answer when it comes to equity in leadership. In the United Kingdom, companies are required to submit to an annual audit to examine gender inclusion and pay transparency practices. If you want to grow your company to a competitive level, invest in the equity of your staff. Starbucks announcement of 100% pay and representation equity is just a good business practice. It allows their core customers to know that they honor and value a diverse perspective and the contributions of their staff. 

"Today's announcement is the result of years of analysis, innovation and commitment. Beginning with a company-wide compensation study in 2008, Starbucks has run regular checks on partner compensation to identify and address any gaps," according the the company's press release. Equity is more than a word, it is a new movement that affecting more than corporate culture-it impacts businesses regardless of size.

Your customers/clients are demanding representation that mirrors themselves and no one on your staff will ever find comfort in earning less for the same role due to gender. You can build a more sustainable model simply by thinking of the needs of your customers and creating products and services from their perspective.

Starbucks spent almost ten years researching their equity policies, while working on solutions for improvement, which makes them one of the forerunners in the race to achieve pay and representation equilibrium. There are three primary benefits to creating fairness policies that rewards a team based on qualification, rather than other external factors. 

Equity improves team morale .

 Starbucks label their staff as partners, which improves the spirit of the company and create inclusive practices. Companies which focus on the morale of the team often perform better than those who solely focus on revenue. Improved morale will improve profit and productivity. 

It improves retention .

Team members who feel included will invest in the success of the company by taking a more active role within leadership. Rather than just serving a hot cup of caramel macchiato, Starbucks realized the value investing in pay equity will stabilize retention, which will ensure consistency within the organization. 

Everyone feels valued, not "used." 

Today's corporate culture is a drastic shift from a half a century ago. Employees want to have more than just fairness; they want to know their ideas are valued, not just used. Today's announcement from Starbucks is a level of validation that there is additional professional ascension which will be equally valued, regardless of gender or ethnicity.