Why Businesses Need to Retain Women
Written by Caroline Turner
Most people don’t change, or willingly go along with change, because the change is “the right thing to do.” They do it if there is an important reason to change. Businesses don’t change their corporate cultures so that they retain women because doing so is nice for women. They do it if there is a compelling business reason to do so. The bottom line reasons to achieve gender diversity in leadership are exactly that—compelling.
You may already understand the business value of gender diversity. You may know that an organization can only achieve sustainable gender diversity in leadership by having an inclusive culture. But enrolling others in creating a culture of inclusion requires that you present a clear business case that fits your industry and organization. It requires that the leaders of your organization understand the business value of inclusion and gender diversity.
This article will get you started (or fill in gaps in your business case) so you can get more managers to appreciate what’s in it for them. It is divided into two parts: the business benefit of an inclusive culture generally and the business benefit of gender diversity in particular. It includes significant costs that can be avoided and significant gains to be captured.
HAVING AN INCLUSIVE CULTURE
Engagement, Inclusion and Results:
Engagement has been convincingly linked with productivity, profitability, employee commitment and retention. An organization where more of today’s diverse workforce is engaged is an inclusive workplace. According to Cumulative Gallup Workplace Studies cited in “Business Case for Diversity with Inclusion,” organizations with inclusive cultures do better on several scores than those that aren’t inclusive:
- 39% higher customer satisfaction
- 22% greater productivity
- 27% higher profitability
Turnover has significant direct and indirect costs. According to the Gallup Study just cited, companies with inclusive cultures have 22% lower turnover. As the economy recovers, turnover will become more front-of-mind for business leaders; studies show a staggering percentage of employed Americans (particularly Millennials) indicate they intend to look for a new job once the economy improves.
An organization with a reputation for being a good place to work for diverse groups has an easier time recruiting talent from today’s diverse hiring pool. That saves money and time.
Many people have a sense that decisions are better when they come from a group with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. A recent study from the Kellogg School of Management concludes that heterogeneous groups get better results than homogeneous groups because the tension or discomfort leads to more careful processing of information.
Businesses with diverse workforces have an easier time tapping the diverse marketplace. The buying power and influence of “minority” groups are large and growing according to buying power studies like that from the Terry College of Business.
GENDER DIVERSITY IN LEADERSHIP
In addition to the benefits of inclusiveness generally, the case for a gender-inclusive workplace includes:
Gender Diversity and Returns:
Catalyst, a research and consulting organization focusing on women in business, and McKinsey have both shown correlations between gender diversity in leadership and the bottom line. Catalyst found significantly higher returns in Fortune 500 companies with more women at the top and on their boards of directors. McKinsey found that, of 89 listed companies studied, those with gender diversity in leadership experienced higher return on equity, operating profit, and stock price. While neither Catalyst nor McKinsey say that having women in leadership causes better results, the numbers indicate that having both men and women in leadership is good for the bottom line.
Women in the Hiring Pool:
According to The Shriver Report, women are now half of the workforce and hiring pool. According to the U.S. Department of Education data and projections, the pool of educated workers has and will continue to have more women than men as women earn more undergraduate and graduate degrees than men. It’s simple: To have the most skilled and talented workforce, a business must attract and retain women as well as men.
The Women’s Market:
A diverse culture that mirrors its markets tends to do better than its homogeneous competitors. The women’s market is key to many industries as women are important decision-makers, customers and potential customers. Women influence more than 85% of retail decisions. Women are decision-makers in more and more business-to-business relationships. Women-owned businesses are a growing sector of the U.S. economy.
Bang for the Buck:
If a business wants to increase engagement and retention from any group other than the group most highly represented at the upper levels of business (white, male, heterosexual, Christian), the largest return may be in increasing engagement in the largest such group--women. And there is more bang for the buck. Women’s needs and approaches to work are shared by other growing sectors of the workforce. Members of Generation X and Millennials share women’s need for flexibility, desire for closer workplace relationships and preference for less hierarchical structures. Steps to make a culture work better for women will also make it work better for these growing workforce sectors.
Creating an inclusive culture is great for those who would otherwise feel less included. Supporting the advancement of women in business is great for women. But these aren’t the ultimate goals; and they won’t inspire action. Inclusive cultures and organizations with gender-diversity achieve superior business outcomes--customer satisfaction, retention, productivity and profitability. That’s what can drive action and culture change.
About the Author: Caroline Turner is a business consultant, advising clients on creating cultures of inclusion, facilitating workshops and delivering speeches. Formerly, she was the Senior Vice President at Coors Brewing Company (now MillerCoors and MolsonCoors). She is a member of the board of directors for Women’s Vision Foundation, which provides leadership development for corporate women and helps its corporate members engage, retain and promote women. Her new book, Difference Works: Improving Retention, Productivity and Profitability through Inclusion, is available for purchase on Amazon.com and at other major online book retailers.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.