Women vs. the glass ceiling

A recent study about women in the workplace sounded like bad news.

The second edition of “Benchmarking Women’s Leadership,” issued by the Women’s College of the University of Denver and The White House Project, noted that while women make up half of the U.S. workforce, they are nowhere near attaining half the leadership positions in key sectors.

The most obvious response for women would be to publically bemoan the results and wonder when this lack of respect for women as leaders will end. If that works for you, go for it.

From where I sit, though, the study also highlights some positives for working women, starting with these two takeaways that might not be as apparent:

  • Many women are opting out of the leadership track to launch their own entrepreneurial projects;
  • Companies should use this study as a reminder of how they are missing an enormous opportunity to create value.

The first of those two “positives” doesn’t, on its face, resolve the issue of low numbers of women in leadership roles. But as Natalie MacNeil of Forbes noted recently, women have been starting businesses at a higher rate than men for the past 20 years. The columnist, who focuses on women in the workplace, also reported that women will create more than half of the 9.72 million new small business jobs expected to be created by 2018.  

That sounds like a “leadership” role to me. And I’ll bet those women are enjoying the many advantages of running their own business, including the ability to tailor their work schedule to accommodate their personal lives.

Which brings us to the “opportunity” that this study represents for corporate America, explained in part by the following positives that woman leadership brings to the table.

  • Women leaders attract new female talent and invigorate the women working below them (Fast Company)
  • A McKinsey & Company report shows that companies with more women on their executive teams had a 17 percent higher stock price growth than the industry average.
  • A Deloitte study recently reported that women control roughly $20 trillion of total consumer spending globally and influence up to 80 percent of buying decisions. That underlines the importance of bringing women into decision-making roles to help tap this enormous market.

Here’s more good news for big business: Women account for 60 percent of college graduates, according to Catalyst.com, which makes them the majority of today’s talent pool.

To me, this suggests that it’s exactly the right time for those in leadership positions in politics and government, nonprofit, business and entrepreneurship – the sectors examined in the University of Denver study — to start grooming tomorrow’s future women leaders.

Categories: Management & Leadership