Women in Leadership: At the Cross-Roads (written by a man)

Laura J. Daley , a savvy business woman, turned me on to a terrific well-written article about the future of women in large corporations and the future of corporations if they don’t succeed in getting more women to top leadership roles. Andrés Tapia, Hewett’s Chief Diversity Officer and Emerging Workforce Solutions Leader says more women in leadership roles should be “hard-wired” into the overall company strategy. He offers recommendations that reach beyond best practices for achieving this goal.

To read Andrés’ paper, click here.

My comments on his piece appear below.

Dear Andrés:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for this well-written paper. I will be passing it along and referencing it often.

From Politically Correct to Strategic Advantage

The phrase “diversity strategies hard-wired to the business strategies,” is simple, elegant, and a needed shift in thinking from diversity as “politically correct” to strategic advantage.

Example: A manufacturer of dental equipment failed to make their products small enough to fit in the hands of women, resulting in loss of business. If they had looked at the demographics they would have realized the number of women graduating from dental schools was rising rapidly. Or better yet, if they had women in leadership roles and listened to their voices, the data would have been right in the room.

Women and Economic Health

Nick Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times reporter and co-author of Half the Sky, reports that women in developing countries tend to invest their money in feeding and educating their families, thus contributing exponentially to the national wealth. Men, on the other hand, tend to invest in momentary pleasures such as gambling, alcohol and prostitution.

Best Practices Don’t Get Us to the Future

Spot on. Best practices are at best a copy cat of what is happening today, and that is clearly not enough. In my work with companies I advocate for The Rule of 3 as a NEXT practice. Why? The minority voice is often not heard until 3 or more are in the room. So ensuring there are 3 women on top leadership teams where critical decisions are made is an important step in raising the voice and the power of the feminine to inform these decisions.

Pay it Forward for Change

As women advance they have a dual simultaneous commitment. The first is to do well on those measures that are part of the company’s scoreboard.  The second is to change the culture, the criteria for successful leadership and the what’s posted on the scoreboard. For more on these changes see my response in Harvard Business Review to the question of why so few women (1 to be exact) on their top 100 CEOs list.

Corporations as Agents of Change

I joined the world of business because in the U.S. for-profit corporations, either intentionally or by default, are one of the most powerful levers for social change. We all work and we are all affected by the values that are played out in the workplace. I had the good fortune of working for the former Digital Equipment Corporation whose work on Diversity has yet to be matched, in my humble opinion. Change spread to the communities, including school systems, where DEC employees lived.

Workplaces have the power to transform society.

Thanks again for this very rich and well written piece.

Other items of interest:

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3 Responses to Women in Leadership: At the Cross-Roads (written by a man)

  1. Andres Tapia April 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    This is Andrés and I wanted to thank you for commenting on and posting a link to my white paper (which, by the way, became an updated chapter in my new book, “The Inclusion Paradox: The Obama Era and the Transformation of Global Diversity”). I am currently working on some new thinking that I will turn into first a blog post and then likely into another white paper in the near future on what I see being the Decade of the Woman Leader. I am especially interested in exploring the potential business culture and business results implications of the continued rise around the world of women into their rightful leadership places (still recognzing of course the myriad continued obstacles and the need for new and transformational practices). And one of these implications is the changing dynamic between women and men in the workplace. If you have any thoughts along these lines you would be willing to share I would love to have a dialogue with you.
    -Andrés Tapia

  2. Anne April 11, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    Andres – You are singing music to my ears both in your white paper and phrases like women in their “rightful leadership places.” A number of years ago James MacGregor Burns wrote about our .”false conception about leadership as mere command or control. As leadership becomes more properly to be seen as a process of leaders engaging and mobilizing the human needs and aspirations of followers, women will be more readily recognized as leaders and men will change their own leadership styles.”

    I look forward to talking about how to get women to their rightful place as leaders, and in doing so free men to be their best selves as well.

  3. Hazel Owens March 23, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

    I like your statement that women have dual commitments as they advance in leadership. I feel like the best thing that women can do in business situations is do their best and show by example that they are competent. Working towards matching current standards and changing what those standards are will help women become more accepted as leaders. Thanks for the article.

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