eMusings Newsletter

APRIL 2011



3 Human Elements


The other day, I was reading the March 14th issue of Newsweek - the one with Hillary Clinton on the cover. Two years as Secretary of State and she's already logged 465,000 miles in the air - although I'm guessing she doesn't collect frequent flier miles.


What really grabbed my attention was the boxed info within the article - "The Gender Metric: The Payoff for Women's Empowerment."


The information contained therein is fascinating, including such stats as:

  • A nation's prosperity correlates with the level of parity between women and men.
  • The U.S. could boost its GDP by as much as 9 percent by putting more women into leadership positions.
  • Worldwide, companies perform better and produce better ideas when their highest ranks have gender diversity.

Yee-Ha. Finally....some hard evidence that having women in charge makes good business sense. We decided to delve deeper and come up with some additional metrics. The result is this month's emusings, wherein we make a solid case - women in leadership positions help boost the bottom line.


Once I had a few days to think things over, however, it occured to me that the whole metrics thing rubs me the wrong way. In recent years, many companies - Bear Stearns, SunTrust Banks, Lehman Brothers, AIG, City Group, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Pfizer, Genzyme, to name just a few - have been run aground by their CEOs, who have still been rewarded with big paydays. (Oh, and by the way, not one of these CEOs is a woman.) Not once did we cry out for metrics to justify the fat paychecks of these CEOs. Yet here we are rolling out metrics just to prove that women belong in business in leadership roles.


From my POV, what's wrong is that the argument for metrics isn't being equally applied. Frankly, I favor holding all leaders accountable - women and men.


What do you think?



Jennie Ayers

Senior Partner, BoldWork  
In This Issue
Dumbfounding #s on Women in Leadership
Women Leaders = More Money
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"The Light at the End of the Tunnel" by Janice Criddle 

(815 words - estimated reading time: less than 4 minutes)


At this year's World Conference on Women, one of the two main topics focused on the economic empowerment of women and their role in the work force. We thought it was a good time to check in and see how women in this country are advancing in the workplace.


Unfortunately, available statistics from the Catalyst U.S. Women in Business report are still disturbing. Note the following percentages:


  • Women in the U.S. labor force: 46.3%
  • Women in management, professional and related occupations: 50.6%
  • Female Fortune 500 corporate officers: 15.4%
  • Female Fortune 500 board seats: 14.8%
  • Female Fortune 500 top earners: 6.7%
  • Female Fortune 500 CEOs: 2.4%

Why is it that even though women make up half of the workforce, they continue to have such poor representation in the executive ranks?  This is especially dumbfounding given that current research shows that Fortune 500 companies who have the biggest percentage of female directors outperform the companies with the lowest percentages by 53% in terms of return on equity, and 66% in terms of return on invested capital. (See a more detailed ROI on women in leadership in the article below.)


light at end of tunnelBut instead of agonizing over the dilemma, let's look for the light at the end of the tunnel.  It's there...we can see "It".  "It" is called Transformational Leadership.  And as "It" replaces Situational Leadership as one of the most popular leadership models, the door to the executive suite is being kicked wide open for women.


So...what is a transformational leader? Well, transformational leaders foster the acceptance of group goals. They focus on followers, communicating an expectation of high performance while, at the same time, helping followers develop their own leadership potential. Gandhi is a good example of a transformational leader. His vision went beyond himself - he satisfied the needs of his followers while remaining sensitive to a higher purpose.


Transformational leaders are adaptive, skilled in emotional and social intelligence. Through clearly outlined goals and a press for excellence, they create opportunities for employees to be accountable for attaining their goals. Transformational leaders help to create and sustain the kind of healthy work climate that fosters increased employee engagement and helps optimize employee performance.


Thereare 4 components to transformational leadership, sometimes referred to as the 4 I's:

  1. Idealized influence:  Charismatic vision and behavior that inspires others to follow.
  2. Inspirational motivation:  Capacity to motivate others to commit to the vision.
  3. Intellectual stimulation:  Encouraging innovation and creativity.
  4. Individualized consideration:  Coaching to the specific needs of followers. 

Research proves that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders. Why? One reason is that 50-70% of employees' perception of WorkClimate is linked directly to the characteristics of the leader. Transformational leaders focus on ensuring clarity, press for excellence and hold positive expectations for followers. As a result, they inspire, empower, and stimulate followers to exceed normal levels of performance.  Transformational leaders key in on and care about followers, their personal needs and development.


Good News for Women Leaders


The good news for the female half of the population is that women exhibit these traits more often than men. Recognized by Psychology Today as the top scholar on gender and leadership, Social Psychologist Dr. Alice Eagly's studies confirm that women are more likely than men to possess the leadership qualities that are associated with success. She believes that women are more naturally transformational than men; that they care more about developing their followers, listen to them and stimulate them to think "outside the box," and that women leaders tend to be more inspirational.


Jackie Zehner, who in 1996 became the youngest woman to become a partner at Goldman Sachs, weighs in on women at the top with regard to the financial meltdown in 2008. "If there had been a critical mass of women over a period of time at the decision-making tables, would we be in the man-woman equal scaleplace that we are in today? I don't think so. (Putting women in leadership positions is) not just the right thing to do anymore just because it's the right thing. It's the right business thing to do." Joe Keefe, president and CEO of Pax World Mutual Funds, agrees; three of the firm's six portfolio managers are women. "I do think that when women are at the table, there's a richer discussion on issues like risk and that you make better decisions because of their input." 


And Dr. Bernard Bass, who developed the current theory of transformational leadership, predicts that in the future, women leaders will dominate simply because they are better suited to 21st century leadership/management than are men.


So, we are encouraged.  We look forward to the day when we see "percentage of female Fortune 500 CEOs: 50%". 

"Women Leaders & the Bottom Line" by Jennie Ayers

(662 words - estimated reading time: less than 3 minutes)


The state of gender diversity in corporate America begs for analysis. There are many theories why there are still so few women in top leadership positions. A discussion of those theories is important. gender diversityBut what really needs surfacing is the impact women leaders have on a company's bottom line. After all, companies are supposed to create value. And if they're a public company, their shareholders demand it.

As it turns out, when we focus on the bottom line, the case for gender diversity is tangible and straightforward. More women leaders mean healthier profits.

The independent research organization Catalyst looked at 353 Fortune 500 companies and confirmed the correlation between increased gender diversity and improved financial performance. Companies who had the highest representation of women on their top management teams had a 35.1% higher Return on Equity (ROE) and 34% higher Total Return to Shareholders (TRS), as compared with companies who had the lowest representation of women. Harvard Business Review reported another study that demonstrated that the Fortune 500 companies with a higher number of women executives out-performed median firms in their same industry, in three areas: profits, assets and stockholders' equity. Other studies find a correlation between gender diverse boards (especially boards with female directors) and improved performance, including higher revenues. And a 19-year Pepperdine University survey of Fortune 500 companies showed that those with the best track record of promoting women outperformed the competition by anywhere from 41 to 116 percent. There are dozens more studies that support these same findings - there simply isn't room here to cite all of them.

Something else companies would do well to keep in mind - women make 85% of household consumer decisions, and earn more than $2 trillion of their own income. This means that women control a big percentage of consumer spending. The more a company can mirror its market demographically, the better positioned it is to provide products and services that the market will demand. This impact is further supported by studies which show that sales for privately held, women-owned businesses increased by 32% over a five year period, while the average increase for all firms was only 24%.

Okay. Too many numbers and your eyes are glazing over. Just remember this. With women in leadership positions, businesses have a competitive edge to tap into the growing market of women-run companies and women consumers...which speaks directly to profits and strategy.

Beyond the balance sheet, companies who focus on gender diversity position themselves to be employers of choice for an increasingly skilled and educated talent pool. Women now earn more than half of all bachelor's and master's degrees and nearly half of all doctorates and law degrees. And women bring fresh perspectives to the table, helping to foster better client service and create new professional relationships.

Why Companies Remain Hesitant

Companies are only beginning to acknowledge that having more women in the C suite is a good thing. But many are hesitant to promote women or invest significantly in their professional development because of the "opt-out" myth. Companies wonder - will a woman leave after only one or two years? Does she have the same ambition and dedication as her male counterpart?

A New York Times article recently examined the question of why executive women leave their companies and found that they don't "opt-out". They "bore-out". Women said they simply become frustrated and bored on the job because companies don't make an effort to keep them professionally engaged.

The Bottom Linewoman holding dollar sign

The studies are clear. Women provide unique management styles that are beneficial to an organization. Nick Lehman shared the buzz at this year's World Economic Forum, which looked at the lack of women at investment banks. "A Lehman Brothers with a few sisters on board might have contained the economic crisis."

The bottom line is that companies with gender diverse leadership teams outperform those without women at the helm. How does your company stack up when it comes to having women leading the way?

boldworklogoAt BoldWork, we specialize in helping businesses and organizations optimize the performance of the people who work for them.

Typically, our clients come to us when they are seeking to change, to solve problems or to challenge a status quo that no longer works. Most importantly, they call us when they want to create a WorkClimate that increases motivation and strengthens employee engagement.

Please take a moment and visit our website at www.doboldwork.com to find out more about us and what we have to offer. Or contact us for additional information at info@doboldwork.com