Gender diversity in the boardroom is good for companies.
By David Wilcox
Criterion Ventures’ managing director Jackie Vanderbrug made an excellent argument for how to celebrate International Women’s day—in the corporate boardroom. Citing research conducted by Catalyst, Vanderbrug reiterated boards with three or more women outperform those without by 83% (measured by return on equity). Diversity brings power.
At the UN Investing in Women & Entrepreneurship: Solutions to MDG 3conference held March 8, many supporting arguments were made for increased inclusion of women at all levels of management. Among the highlights: Geena Davis (of The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media) advocating for appropriate representation of women in the media and Dermalogica founder Jane Wurmand speaking on the concept of the “power of touch” and job creation for women globally, the foundation to Dermalogica’s success.
We were also reminded of the coming positive wave of social advocacy and enterprises led by millennials in general and young women in particular. The Girl Up campaign leverages this powerful generational good.
Obviously you can’t run out, add a couple of female directors, and expect corporate performance to improve. There is a lot of basic work needed to open any business to increased innovation and diversity. The bestselling book, The Game-Changer, by P&G’s former CEO A. G. Lafley, is an excellent example. Leaders are doing this work and they are discovering significant sources of innovation.
So how do you act on all of this?
- First, expand your network to include innovative movements and organizations lead by women.
- Second, invest in social movements and enterprises lead by women.
- Third, build and invest in businesses (and sustainable social enterprises) that employ women.
- Fourth, support movements and organizations that solve critical problems faced by women.
These four recommendations are not typically on the radar screen for most organizations, and many respond to these challenges with “our corporate foundation takes care of issues like that.” What may have been a decent answer a decade ago is no longer adequate especially since innovation is coming from new places like the Global South. Corporations who are actively scaling innovative social enterprises that have transformative impact and business models can actually achieve progress on several fronts simultaneously.
For example the Every Woman Every Child campaign is a massive set of commitments from countries, NGOs, corporations and others. Headlines for the September 22 announcement at the UN Summit read: “UN Summit launches drive to save the lives of more than 16 million woman and children – Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health Draws more than $40 Billion in Resources.”
Business leaders wanting to expand their presence among women leaders are presented here with an almost unparalleled opportunity to build relationships and bridges that can transform millions of lives. What the Every Woman Every Child campaign needs is impact and business models that integrate a number of features – telemedicine, clean water, ERM, mobile diagnostics. These highly innovative solutions will enable initial expenditures to garner outsized results so that investment continues and goals are reached while spending sustainable amounts (not $40 billion).
(For more on this, see this Reachscale post.)
Social enterprises on the ground are already delivering these services. Healthpoint, along with Lifespring Hospitals and the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, are examples of this. Corporate support could present these models to countries and the global health ecosystem, driving innovation and successful initial expenditures. Farther down the road, it will also seed the next generation of women leaders.
About David Wilcox
David Wilcox is the founder of ReachScale, an organization that aligns the social responsibility goals of corporations with high potential social entrepreneurs working in areas of common interest.
Talkback Readers: How gender diverse is your company’s board? What have you done (are planning to do) to increase the presence of women? Has it made a difference? Tell us on Talkback!