Gender Diversity Called Business Imperative

Discussion
Feb 08, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A new white paper from the Network of Executive Women (NEW), Leveraging Management Diversity for Competitive Advantage, says companies in the retailing and consumer goods industries have made some strides bringing more women into the managerial and professional levels of the workforce, but that is not translating into a greater presence at the most senior levels.

According to NEW (http://www.newonline.org/), women made up 50 percent of the managerial/professional workforce but only 19 percent of senior executive positions in 2002. The current percentage of women in senior executive positions is especially striking when you consider that in 1990, the percentage of women in similar positions was 32 percent.

In a released statement, Kimberly Betts, NEW’s president and communications director of Ahold USA, said, “Management diversity is a business imperative, especially in light of the fact that three-quarters of the American population and nearly two-thirds of the nation’s workforce is comprised of women and minorities. This report presents the business case for diversity in clear and concise terms.”

The benefits, according to NEW, are clear. Greater gender diversity expands the executive talent pool, increases input into decision making, aligns companies more closely with their primary customers, improves productivity, morale and employee retention rates while reducing grievances against employers.

Ms. Betts said, “Most executives are on board with diversity. They just don’t know how to get there from here. This white paper is part of NEW’s effort to assist our industry partners by presenting the business case for management diversity and a concrete action plan they can follow.”

The white paper offers a specific action plan for companies to follow. Among the steps needed to increase gender diversity is top-level support for such an initiative, creating a formal gender diversity master plan, internal training and programs focused on promoting from within, support networking, mentoring and affinity programs, and create benchmarks to measure results.

“Imagine the talent and creativity lost when women employees don’t reach their full potential,” said Ms. Betts. “Gender diversity could be worth billions to American business.”

Moderator’s Comment: What do you see as “the business case” for gender diversity at the senior executive level? How would you recommend companies “get
there from here” on achieving greater gender diversity at the most senior levels?

Companies interested in acquiring a copy of the white paper, Leveraging Management Diversity for Competitive Advantage, can contact NEW president
Joan Toth via email at jtoth@newonline.org or by phone at 312.373.5682.

George Anderson – Moderator

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