When people call for more women in the workplace, it may sound as though they're just trying to meet a quota. Gender diversity, though, could be the key to any company's success. Diversifying a variety of top positions, specifically executive roles, is more than a movement to level the corporate playing field -- it's about using the best resources to maximize every organization's potential.

Effective but Underrepresented

"If women ran the world, there would be no wars." It's an old stereotype, but there's something to be said for the effects of more women in leadership positions. In fact, according to a Morgan Stanley report, "more gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings, can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better products, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction."

Despite the observed benefits, however, company leadership around the world remains unbalanced, with women accounting for less than a quarter of management positions globally. The disparity is even greater when it comes to higher-level management positions. 24/7 Wall St. analyzed data compiled by the research group LedBetter and discovered that of the 234 companies that own almost 2,000 of the world's most recognized consumer brands, only 14 of the companies had a female CEO, while nine of them had no women at all serving in executive positions or on their boards.

It'll take more than just a motivated resistance to overturn years of systemic inequality and create opportunities for more female executives. But by employing a few key strategies, everyone from business leaders to individual employees can help combat the gender gap and move our workforce toward greater leadership balance. 

1. Promote a Welcoming Culture

Creating more opportunities for women starts with creating a more inclusive environment. Any specific efforts to recruit women to leadership roles in corporate settings are useless if companies don't encourage a work culture where they can succeed.

According to Anu Mandapati, founder of IMPACT Leadership for Women, some initial steps to creating this culture are to focus mainly on education and experience in the hiring process, offer salaries based on the market rate rather than salary history, and start rewarding outcomes achieved instead of hours worked. Each of these guidelines could build the foundation for gender equality in the workplace, thus creating an environment where women can thrive in leadership roles.

2. Invest in Companies That Champion Diversity

The business community can also have a positive impact on female equality by investing in companies that are pioneering this change. Christine Alemany, CEO advisor at Trailblaze Growth Advisors, claims it's not enough to rely on existing, male-centric corporations to promote equality. "It's time for women to start their own businesses and begin to invest in new ones that are diverse," Alemany notes.

According to Alemany, there are a handful of venture capitalists and private equity firms that see diversity as a priority and focus on companies with diverse executive teams as part of their investment strategy. The firm 112Capital, for instance, has invested in female-led tech companies, while the JumpFund focuses on female-led ventures in the southeastern U.S.  If more firms embrace this objective, a new wave of female executives will emerge.

3. Make the Results Public

Improving the opportunities for female executives at your own company is one thing, but inspiring other organizations to do the same is where the real battle lies. One way to do that is by making women leaders visible. When Emily Culp, CMO of Keds, is invited to industry events, she shares her invitation with her female colleagues.

Culp raises the visibility of her entire team by encouraging them to partake in public speaking events and activities outside of work, such as serving on a board or volunteering. She explains the value: "Real business opportunities come out of these events, but you have to be present to network."

Creating a more inclusive culture takes time, but with cooperation from companies around the world, gender equality in upper-level management may be closer than ever.

Published on: May 6, 2018