Underrepresentation and Future Advancements: ISM Women & Leadership Conference Coverage (Part 2)

Spend Matters welcomes this guest event coverage from Barbara Ardell, vice president at Paladin Associates.

Women make up just 5% of CEOs at large corporations in America. This is something Elba Pareja-Gallagher, founder of the nonprofit ShowMe50, is trying to change. Elba was one of the speakers at the ISM New Jersey Women & Leadership Conference. Her presentation, Understanding the underrepresentation of women in Senior Leadership, hit on the following stats:

  • Studies support a correlation between gender diversity in leadership and financial performance. According to Catalyst, companies with sustained high representation of women on boards significantly outperform those who sustained low representation. They had 84% higher return on sales, 46% higher return on equity and 60% higher return on invested capital.
  • An inclusive leadership style reduces turnover and improves the performance of diverse teams (Catalyst).
  • Women control 70% of household purchases and more than $20 trillion of consumer spending worldwide
  • Gender diverse groups have higher collective intelligence than homogeneous groups (Catalyst). A 2015 study found that more women on teams makes them smarter.

If all of the above is true, why don’t we have gender-balanced leadership? It’s complicated, Elba said in her presentation. The root causes are both formal and informal as well as individual and systemic. They encompass four general categories:

  1. Individual beliefs and unconscious behaviors
  2. Internal culture
  3. Access to resources
  4. Policy and procedures

So what needs to change? According to Elba:

  • Reliance on stereotypes that lead to unconscious gender bias at work
  • Unequal access to information and programs
  • Exclusive, command-and-control cultures
  • Flexibility and accountability
  • Integration of men into the conversation

ShowMe50 has prepared an impressive set of resources to help individuals and groups drive change within their sphere of influence. Among ShowMe50’s tools is a Win-Win Checklist that list best practices shown to lead to higher employee satisfaction and productivity, lower turnover and greater innovation. There is also a comprehensive set of Action Toolkits with presentations, Q&A and other resources to equip those who want to lead the charge.

ShowMe50 invites people become ambassadors to drive a grassroots movement within their own organizations. Hats off to Elba for her initiative, leadership and creativity in tackling this important business and social challenge. UPS is fortunate to have her among their management ranks.

Owning Your Success

Another presentation at the event was a panel discussion with Elena Polansky, senior director at Pfizer; Lisa Martin, senior vice president and CPO for Teva Pharmaceuticals; Julie Glauninger, financial advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management; and Lauren Thomas, director-projects at PSE&G. The discussion centered around important topics such as mentors, training, gender-related career challenges and tips for success.

Here are some key takeaways from the panel:

On the topic of underrepresentation of women in senior leadership to panel postulated:

  • We limit ourselves
  • We’re too modest. We need to ask for it [the opportunity]
  • Tenure comes into play. This is outdated – an “old mantra”

When asked what women often do to “shoot themselves in the foot?” the panel observed the following:

  • We don’t take credit for our work
  • We don’t get out of our comfort zone and take risks
  • We don’t let our desires and aspirations be known
  • We don’t step up to the tough conversations

Final advice from this august group included:

  • Don’t worry; be happy! – Lisa
  • Be open to change. Be authentic. Don’t apologize. – Julie
  • Don’t be afraid to make tough or unpopular decisions. – Lauren
  • Bring your whole self to work. – Elena

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