Women At The Top – Leadership And The Vital Role Women Play
Conversations around the importance of diversity and gender equality in business have gained serious momentum in recent years.
More and more businesses have acknowledged the need for improved diversity and inclusion, at every level from junior roles to C-suite leadership.
However, while awareness of this issue may be improving, many organisations and industries are still not moving quickly enough to deliver real change. Businesses often make verbal commitments around improved diversity but fail to follow up with meaningful actions.
On the other hand, companies that do place a stronger emphasis on diversity and gender parity usually create more inclusive cultures, more productive teams, and more appealing working environments.
Let’s take a look at some of the most pressing issues surrounding diversity in business, and explore how women in executive positions are making a huge impact on their organisations.
The impact of gender equality at the executive level
The positive impact of diversity at the executive level is often discussed in broad terms.
But how does gender equality actually affect businesses on a day-to-day basis?
According to a report from the Harvard Business Review:
“Research has shown that firms with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences — among many other benefits.”
This same report also identifies some interesting trends around the impact of gender parity on business direction and strategy.
The evidence suggests that including women in the C-suite brings fresh ideas and new thinking to the table, while also making wider management teams more open to change.
This trend may be rooted in the fact that women have often needed to adopt a bolder approach to succeed at the executive level. Many women in senior leadership roles have felt the need to generate innovative ideas to shake off stereotypes around timidity, while also finding themselves under severe pressure to avoid making mistakes.
This has led to a tricky balancing act for many women in executive positions.
However, the impact of women at the executive level is clear. Many firms with female executives have shifted their focus from mergers and acquisitions to internal R&D, with an emphasis on avoiding unnecessary risk and exploring new ideas (of course, not in every case!).
But despite the proven impact of gender balance at the C-suite level, statistics show that many businesses are still failing to embrace change.
An article from The Business Magazine claims that “of 2021’s Fortune 500 companies, 87 per cent with a female CEO reported above-average profits, compared to 78 per cent of those headed by men.”
This seems like conclusive proof that gender parity can drive positive results for businesses - but the same article also states that “...only 39 of the Fortune 500 companies currently have a female CEO.”
Although improved executive diversity is proven to be a net benefit for businesses, there is still a significant amount of room for improvement in this space.
The power of diversity in business
It’s important to note that gender equality isn’t the only form of diversity that can enhance business leadership.
A piece of research from McKinsey in 2020 (titled ‘Diversity wins’) found that “companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability than peer companies in the fourth quartile.”
However, this report also came to a familiar conclusion.
Although gender, cultural, and ethnic diversity were proven to increase profitability, a large number of businesses were still failing to make improvements in this area.
McKinsey also stressed the importance of a systematic, accountable, and goal-based approach to diversity and inclusion at the C-suite level.
This is a key benefit of the B Corp certification and a huge reason that we’re incredibly proud to have achieved our own B Corp status at Harmonic. The B Corp initiative forces companies to stay accountable and transparent when it comes to diversity, and celebrates businesses that are making strides in the right direction.
A 2021 Forbes article also explored this topic in detail, highlighting 14 key benefits of more diverse leadership teams. The piece highlights the impact of diversity in various areas, from retaining talent to unlocking fresh perspectives and creating an inclusive culture.
Actively embracing D&I is still a major obstacle for many corporations - but companies that are open to diversity are reaping the benefits, from increased profitability to improved employee relationships.
Celebrating businesses with women at the top
It’s time to showcase a few of the companies that have successfully built diverse leadership teams and incorporated gender parity into their business DNA.
Some of these businesses were founded with diversity and empowerment at their core, while others have made significant efforts to improve D&I over time. However, they all have one thing in common - these companies are pioneering gender equality and setting a clear example for other organisations.
Code First Girls
Anna Brailsford (CEO and Founder)
Alice Bentinck (Co-Founder)
Code First Girls is a platform that provides women with all of the expertise, knowledge, and support they need to become successful coders and developers.
Carolyn Childers, Lindsay Kaplan (Co-Founders)
Chief is a private network that’s designed to connect powerful women, open up valuable networking opportunities, and provide female leaders with a visible platform.
Amy Williams (Founder and CEO)
Marisa Thomas (CMO)
Claire Dillon (Head of People)
Hannah Williams (Impact Manager)
Julia Hitchman (Head of Brand and Agency Partnerships)
Claire Gleeson-Landry (Head of Investment)
Good-Loop is an ethical digital advertising platform that maximises engagement for brands while also enabling consumers to send free charity donations.
Tamara Orlova (CFO)
Sonia Ponzo (Director of Science)
Cath Everett (VP Product and Content)
Julia Paniznik (Director of Strategic Partnerships)
Ann Roberts (Chief People Officer)
Flo is an innovative women’s health app that provides users with detailed health insights, personalised well-being tips, a smart period tracker, and a digital ovulation calendar.
Alexia de Broglie (Co-Founder)
Margot de Broglie (Co-Founder)
Your Juno is a financial education platform that helps women and non-binary individuals to accumulate wealth, manage their finances, and invest money wisely.
Audrey Tsang (Co-CEO)
Ida Tin (Co-Founder)
Rhiannon White (Chief Product Officer)
Lynae Brayboy (Chief Medical Officer)
Antonia Seffen (VP Finance)
Carrie Walter (Co-CEO)
Emma MacKenzie (Chief of Staff)
Clue is a pioneering FemTech business, offering a period and ovulation tracker that’s designed to help women improve their reproductive health and general well-being.
Grace Beverley (CEO and Founder)
Morgan Fowles (MD)
Siobhan Farrier (Head of Finance )
Jade Harvey (Head of Performance)
TALA creates modern, sustainable, and ethically-made activewear that’s available at competitive prices.
Karolina Lofqvist (Founder and CEO)
Jasmine Tagesson (COO and Founder)
Hormona is an online platform that enables women to better understand their hormones, access personalised health insights, and easily track their symptoms.
These are highly successful businesses that are often significant disruptors and innovators in their respective industries. Beyond that, these are also companies that consistently place a serious emphasis on diversity and inclusion at the executive level.
From startups to Fortune 500
Gender equality is often discussed in reference to larger corporations, but every type of business should be looking to improve its approach to diversity.
Startups, for example, have an excellent opportunity to diversify their leadership teams at an earlier stage. This can help to nurture an inclusive culture that thrives in the long term and encourage fresh thinking that leads to product innovation.
Established Fortune 500 businesses should be thinking carefully about their plans for diversity and inclusion.
Influential women are quickly taking ownership of C-suite positions and claiming their spots on multiple Fortune 500 lists. Businesses that are open to change will enjoy the benefits of diverse leadership teams, while reluctant companies risk being left behind and stagnating.
Although women are making massive strides at the executive level in many industries, there is still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to gender equality.
Diversity is now rightfully being recognised as more than just a buzzword or talking point.
Diversity offers businesses a huge range of compelling benefits, and not just in terms of profitability. Women at the C-suite level are frequently spearheading positive change within their companies, and this will only accelerate as more businesses embrace D&I over time.
Harmonic are able to offer a wealth of expertise, experience and services across Finance and Operations at all levels (from entry level to Executive, across permanent, portfolio, and interim).
For any Executive level hires, or for requirements within your team in the Impact sector, please get in touch with Liv (email@example.com) to discuss needs and how I can support you.