Meet Ellen D’Amato, president and CEO for Central Exchange, a voice and venue for Kansas City women to realize their full personal and professional potential. With more than 400 programs and events annually at two locations in the metropolitan area, Central Exchange provides members with a wide variety of opportunities for leadership, business development and networking opportunities.
We need women on corporate boards. It’s a simple as that.
Why? There are lots of reasons. One, because women are a critical part of the workplace talent pool—we account for 60 percent of today’s college graduates, we now compose half the workforce, including half of managers and professionals, and we make 80 percent of the consumer buying decisions.
But it’s not just about numbers, demographic representation and buying power. It’s about effective leadership and it’s about results.
In order for our companies to be competitive in today’s world, they need to draw their leadership—executive officers and board members—from all the best and brightest in the workforce, not just the half that is made up of men.
In fact, a growing body of research shows that the most effective leadership teams are those that combine the complementary skills of men and women working together. On average, companies with meaningful gender diversity at the top are more profitable and more innovative than those with little or none.
And there are plenty of statistics to support that assertion:
- Companies with three or more women on their boards average 42 percent higher ROS and 53 percent higher ROE. (Catalyst)
- Companies with women on their executive teams had a 17 percent higher stock price growth than industry average. (McKinsey & Company)
- On average, companies with more women on their executive team had an 11.10 percent EBIT versus 5.80 percent industry average. (McKinsey % Company)
- Fortune 500 companies with more gender diversity among executive officers had a ROE 35 percent higher than those with the least gender diversity (Catalyst)
- Gender diverse teams almost always outperform a homogeneous group by substantial margin. (Ernst & Young and University of Michigan)
Creating a Win for KC
Within the top 39 public companies in the Kansas City region, women constitute only 7 percent of the boards of directors and only 7 percent of the executive officers. Our city lags the nation’s Fortune 500 companies by 50 percent.
Central Exchange is working to change that.
Through the win | win campaign, we are working with other civic and business leaders to increase women’s presence on boards and among executive officers to 20 percent by 2015 because we believe gender diversity at the top will help our region to thrive economically in the next decade and the decades to come. We want Kansas City to be a place all of the best and brightest college graduates would like to make a career—a place where are daughters as well as our sons can reach the uppermost leadership positions.
About Win-Win KC
Last year, Central Exchange was instrumental in launching this community-wide campaign to increase gender diversity at the top of area companies. Partners in this effort include the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas City Area Development Council, the UMKC Bloch School and the Kauffman Foundation.
The campaign is based on a compelling business case showing on average companies with meaningful gender diversity at the top tend to be more profitable, innovative and better run. More information about the win|win campaign and the more than 70 companies and organizations that have signed on as supporters can be found at www.winwinkc.com.
The State of the Workplace
To make this happen, companies must utilize and attract all of the best talent available. And they must recognize the fundamental shift that’s happened in the workplace.
Demographics – college graduates, professionals, the workforce – and technology have changed dramatically in the last 50 years, but workplace culture hasn’t kept pace. Effectiveness need no longer be judged by the number of hours we sit behind our desk in the office. Computers make it possible to do work from any place and during hours outside what used to be considered the normal working day. A workplace culture that grants employees the flexibility technology allows is especially important for keeping women in the workplace during child-rearing years because they still tend to bear that responsibility.
Our diverse society and global economy also requires a variety of leadership skills and styles. Command and control leadership, a style particularly associated with men, is no longer feasible when important attributes to business success today are collaboration and innovation. Workplace culture must recognize and value a variety of leadership styles—especially those that foster these important attributes.
So in addition to campaigns like Win Win KC, we at Central Exchange are also bringing to the Kansas City business community best practices utilized by companies and firms who have been successful in increasing gender diversity at the top. Central Exchange’s intensive one-year leadership development program, Emerging Leaders, is one program we have to help companies grow the pipeline of women to serve in top-level positions.