I’ve spent more than 20 years working in corporate America. I love giant corporations. They have abundant resources which allow them to provide abundant opportunities. They are the engines of large scale prosperity. However, for women inside these mega-businesses, the benefits of rising to senior leadership positions have remained elusive.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up more than 50% of management positions in America. But we are less than 5% of CEOs and are just 22% of senior management. Women are grossly underrepresented in leadership despite the business case for gender diversity.
Catalyst is the premier research organization for advancing opportunities for women at work. According to Catalyst research, companies with sustained high representation of women on boards significantly outperform those with sustained low representation of women on boards on key financial measures of how well companies use their resources to generate profits and shareholder value.
In another study, Gender 3000: Women in Senior Management, Credit Suisse found that companies with higher female representation at the board level or in top management exhibit higher returns on equity, higher valuations and higher dividend payout ratios. Credit Suisse sees three main obstacles to achieving greater gender diversity: cultural biases; workplace-related biases; and structural/policy issues.
Studies have also shown that greater gender diversity drives innovation. Two examples: Center for Talent Innovation (2013) and Woolley, Malone, Chabris (2015).
Despite education, competence and interest in leading, women are not rising to leadership positions.
I studied the inconsistency and concluded there are four key roadblocks qualified women face at work: Gender bias; lack of transparent talent management practices; inflexible work environments; and weak management accountability. Of late, women have remained largely silent inside their companies and have accepted these practices as just the way things are.
Convinced there was a pragmatic way to solve this problem of the undervaluation and underutilization of women’s potential, I began exploring solutions. I formed a non-profit organization to educate, inspire and transform.
I’d like to introduce you to ShowMe50.org.
The ShowMe50TM vision is to achieve 50% women in senior leadership positions at every S&P 500 company. I developed a framework that I would feel comfortable using at my own company. ShowMe50.org provides a self-directed web based platform where individuals can acquire the ability to execute transformational change inside their companies.
We believe it is possible for individuals to work collaboratively with their senior leaders and HR departments to explore improvement opportunities. If both the company and employees are committed to genuinely understanding each other through open dialogue, roadmaps to correct gender bias can be accelerated to level the playing field for women at work. We’ve developed seven action toolkits and the ShowMe50TM Win-Win Checklist to start the conversation.
I don’t deny that achieving 50% women in senior leadership positions in the S&P 500 is a bold and ambitious goal.
Frankly, there is risk.
Many corporate senior leaders genuinely believe there’s not a problem. Who am I to attempt to enlighten these corporate titans? Am I going to get fired, held back or demoted for challenging the status quo? Is my career over? Am I naïve to think that one person can make a difference?
When Catalyst.org launched its # Disrupt the Default campaign in the fall of 2014, it gave me the courage to push forward despite the risk. They are encouraging women to shake up the way we think, speak and act and to make bold moves to forge meaningful change for women and men in our workplaces. That’s exactly what ShowMe50TM aims to do.
When one person inside a company joins forces with other like-minded peers using practical tools to achieve a mutually beneficial goal, meaningful, lasting change can happen.
Individuals— ShowMe50TM wants you to choose a level of involvement that feels comfortable for you. We’ve developed four paths – choose one or a combination:
- You can take the lead inside your company as a ShowMe50TM Ambassador
- You can learn and support the gender balanced leadership movement by educating yourself at our website, expressing your voice through social media and supporting your ShowMe50TM Ambassador
- You can observe from the sidelines until you’re ready to act
- You can donate cash or stock so we can fund our mission
Corporate Executives-– We hope you will recognize this as an opportunity to work together toward a common goal. If you are interested optimizing your workforce, reducing turnover, improving employee engagement, increasing innovation, enhancing your brand and growing your profits faster read our materials and engage in collaborative dialogue with ShowMe50TM supporters. This is employee engagement that forges visible progress. It’s what diversity and inclusion are all about. We want to work together with you to close the gender gap one corporation at a time.
The ShowMe50™ approach is a two-gender, win-win solution. All employees benefit. Join the call to action today!