By Bill Donoghue
Women are simply and unequivocally underrepresented at the top.
There are only 32 female CEO amongst the Fortune 500 companies, and only 1,835 of the 9,976 executives currently employed at Fortune 1000 companies are women. 20%, i.e. one fifth, of c-suite executives are women, while women of color are the least represented, with only 3% holding c-suite level positions.
While the mere mention of this discrepancy can often be met by either apathy or occasionally some eye-rolling, many will say that the issue is receiving attention, and the problem is a social rather than a political one.
But research illustrates quite the contrary. A 2015 Korn Ferry Institute executive story revealed that although 96% of executives said they understood its importance, less than a quarter (23%) were held accountable by linking their financial rewards to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) results. In other words, while many talk the talk, few are actively seeking a resolution.
And yet given that we know that female leaders equate to profits – companies with 50% women in senior operating roles show 19% higher return on equity (ROE) on average. We know too from a 2015 study, that companies with strong female leadership generate a 10.1% return on equity compared to 7.4% in companies lacking such leadership and that the most gender-diverse companies are 15% MORE LIKELY to have financial returns above their industry means; yet we still aren’t seeing the numbers change. Frankly, I do give a damn and am baffled by this disconnect and a reluctance by business to address the imbalance.
Now, at Skillsoft we have much work to do to improve our gender balance especially in Leadership, but we have made progress over the past 18 months. I am a strong advocate for gender equality, and more recently we have stepped up our approach.
Late last year, the Paradigm for Parity® coalition was launched by a group of CEOs and business leaders committed to establishing a new norm in corporate leadership; one where women and men have equal power, status and opportunity.
Naturally when I heard about this initiative, I was thrilled. Great change often only comes from within, so this idea of business changing business really appealed to me.
In October, we signed the Paradigm for Parity® pledge, committing us to deliver gender parity by 2030. We have adopted and begun following the Paradigm for Parity® 5-Point Action Plan, and we really hope to see this target actualized in thirteen years or less.
The five steps are:
- Step 1 Eliminating or minimizing unconscious bias in the workplace;
- Step 2 Significantly increasing the number of women in senior operating roles, with the near-term goal of at least 30 percent representation in all leadership groups;
- Step 3 Measuring targets and maintaining accountability by providing regular progress reports;
- Step 4 Basing career progress on business results and performance, rather than physical presence in the office; and
- Step 5 Providing sponsors, not just mentors, to women well positioned for long-term success.
However, as the global leader in corporate learning, we knew we had a responsibility to expand our influence to shape and grow female leadership throughout other organizations. So in addition to our current Women in Action program, one of the few Leadership programs developed from the ground up for women, we mapped our Business Skills & Leadership content to the Paradigm for Parity’s 5-Step Action Plan, with the aim of encouraging and facilitating further adoption of this vital program.
We selected over 200 learning assets, a combination of books, videos and courses and then grouped them to create a Skillsoft learning solution alignment program. We then bundled these assets into a number of categories, for example, one such category is Base Career Progress on Business Results and Performance, Not on Presence. This then divided into subcategories such as Perseverance at Work and Managing Your Career each linked to a selection of relevant Skillsoft learning offerings.
We also created the P4P Toolkit packed with courses, books and videos covering recruiting, diversity on the job and unconscious bias, to further assist organizations to build and develop a truly representative workforce. These asserts are all conveniently linked to Paradigm for Parity® 5-Point Action Plan.
For information about the Paradigm for Parity® pledge and get the company toolkit pledge click here.
Bill Donoghue is the chairman and CEO of the Skillsoft Group.