Several months ago, during a discussion on women in leadership with the CEO of a billion dollar plus company, I asked him why he didn’t have any women (not one) within his leadership structure.
He responded: They don’t ask!
I was floored; dumbfounded actually. I thought to myself; I know many seasoned female professionals in his industry, and very few of them are shy to taking on new challenges, risks, or big assignments. Many of them, not all, are scratching at the bit for the opportunity.
Though I challenged him, I had a better opportunity to serve him. As if by fate, later that week I was due to speak to a roomful of women in his specific industry. I closed our call by offering him the feedback from that room, as both learning and a business case development opportunity; should he want it to use it as he moved forward.
One week later, I posed his challenge to the room. Any woman reading this can guess the response received: “Of course I would ask”
“Trust me, I ask!”
“That is just an excuse for not wanting women at the table.”
A few other women commented:
“Our business was founded by a woman. They get the advantage women have, and there are a number of them in key roles”.
“Our primary customer is women, so it only makes sense we would have a strong female presence.”
“Though it hasn’t always been, management has indicated a change in how we operate since putting in leadership roles; in a good way. So it is a primary focus. ”
Then it hit me. A company’s competition can provide a wealth of information of what they are or aren’t doing for women in business; and how those things are impacting the morale of their female employees, the dynamics of their teams, and the overall productivity and profits of a business. All of the things successful CEO’s and leaders want most.
Following that speaking engagement, I continued to ask similar questions of other competing companies, industries and segments: would you make changes to your business model if you knew your competitors were gaining a competitive advantage and market share, and attracting top talent… as a result of women in key roles/leadership?
It garnered a wealth of information companies can use for and against their competition.
Here are 10 things your competitor(s) value in women within their business:
1. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women account for over 80 percent of consumer spending, or about $5 trillion dollars annually. Therefore, it is only logical women would contribute greatly to leading the design, marketing, selling (to name a few) of a company’s products and services.
2. Women are great multi-taskers but more so efficiency experts, therefore women excel at streamlining processes, procedures and overall operations of a company.
3. Women consider all of their different perspectives on business ideas, decisions and approaches they take: being a woman, mother or daughter, friend or community member, consumer, and professional, thereby providing exceptional 360 degree value to everything they do. Specialist talks
4. Women want it all despite believing it is possible. Therefore they try, work and achieve harder.
5. Women love to talk, share and provide recommendations of their favorite (and least favorite) products, services, companies, brands and just about everything else; inside and outside of work. They fully get team play, relationship building, social networking and marketing.
6. As a result of #4 they will also pay a premium for something they really want, or bargain shop until they find the real value of a product or service. As a result, they understand the numbers behind products and services and budgeting, therefore are great contributors to designing, developing and selling at the best profit and least expense.
7. The business climate and employee demand has changed – calling for less hierarchy and bureaucracy, and more connection, collaboration and empathy.
- Tony Schwartz says it best in his Harvard Business Review Blog – “An effective modern leader requires a blend of intellectual qualities – the ability to think analytically, strategically and creatively – and emotional ones, including self-awareness, empathy, and humility. In short, great leadership begins with being a whole human being. I meet far more women with this blend of qualities than I do men, and especially so when it comes to emotional and social intelligence.”