Why Women In The Boardroom Is Good For All Of Us

by Georgina Lawton

Well, the 2016 edition of the Women in the Workplace study is out, and it confirms what I — and likely many others — already knew about gender in the workplace: Men and women may walk the same corridors and sit at the same desks, but our experiences are strikingly different. According to the study, conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co., women in leadership positions believe they have it tougher than their male counterparts; we perceive a steeper rise to the top and recognize that our gender can play a devastating role in reducing our career progression. But as numerous studies suggest, more women in the boardroom is good for everyone — so why isn't that happening?

The 2016 Women in the Workplace study, which builds on the 2015 edition of the same study and research conducted by McKinsey & Co. in 2012, provides valuable insight into the challenges women face at work; unfortunately, one of the things it suggests is that the glass ceiling can impact the mentality and career progression of women. Meanwhile, a recent Forbes study found that a huge number of men don't believe gender bias at work is a problem; paired with a Pew study finding that many men also don't believe that sexism exists, and, well... to say there's a disconnect between women's and men's experiences would be putting it mildly.

Worth looking at alongside the studies detailing women's experiences with gender bias in the workplace are also the studies that show the positive impacts of having more women at work and in leadership positions. While of course women shouldn't have to be suffering sexism in the workplace, period, these five studies draw that fact into focus ever more sharply. They prove that having women in the boardroom and other leadership positions benefits everyone. There is literally no reason to continue operating with sexism being the norm.

1. Women Help Push Profits Up

Perhaps the most economically persuasive reason for adding more women to the boardroom, a new study from Credit Suisse proves that companies with women on their board have outperformed those with only men by 3.5 percent since 2005.The study, which analyzed performance and gender of 27,000 senior managers at 3,000 of the world’s largest companies also proved that when women hold the majority of top leadership roles, there's both improved sales growth and higher investment returns.

2. More Women In Leadership Positions Results In Better Performance In Companies Overall

A 2015 study of companies in the UK, India, and the United States suggested that having at least one female executive at a company could help publicly traded companies gain an additional £430 billion of investment returns (about $560 billion). Accountancy firm Grant Thornton published the findings in the report, "Women in Business: The Value of Diversity."

3. Women Promote Better Boardroom Conversation

In 2015, Aaron Dhir, an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, interviewed directors in Norway, where boardroom quotas have mandated gender diversity since 2003. (Every public boardroom has to be at least 40 percent female). He noticed that these companies have enjoyed more balanced, nuanced boardroom conversations and have large-scale risks discussed in a more comprehensive manner. Wrote Dhir in The Atlantic, “The heterogeneity brought about by quotas has enhanced the quality of boardroom deliberations and overall corporate governance. ... The directors I interviewed believed that women were more likely than men to thoroughly deliberate and evaluate risk."

4. Company Reputations Improve

The Harvard Business Review points to studies undertaken by the non-profit group Catalyst which prove that gender diversity can boosts company ratings and reputation. "Several rating agencies and investment funds, such as CalPERS and PAX World, use the extent of gender diversity as one of their investment criteria," they state.

5. Inter-Company Relationships Improve

According to a UK study by the RSA, more women at work helps inter-company relationships. The RSA's analysis of the gender make-up of the life sciences industry found that empathy and intuition are both present in leadership positions when more women are around, with almost 62 percent of people reporting that a gender-diverse workforce meant better relationships and communication at work.

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