Are Women Ready to Be in the Executive Suite?
Updated: Jul 13
In a recent article in the Denver Post, Teresa Elder, CEO of WideOpen West and one of only two female CEOs of publicly-traded companies in Colorado said, “Since the late ‘70s, the trend has been that more women attend and graduate from college than men. Fully half the workforce is made up of women and yet only 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by women CEOs.” The problem, according to the other Colorado public company CEO Denny Post is that “too few male leaders have made it a true priority to change hiring, assessment development and promotion practices in their organizations. Male leaders must champion change.”
Any women who has worked to get to the top of the corporate ladder knows that men prefer other men on their teams. But does that approach really benefit their companies? In the same article, Jo Lynne Whiting, chair of the Women’s Leadership Foundation which conducts an annual study on this subject said that research shows that companies with women directors perform much better than those that are all-male, across a variety of measures, from earnings growth to avoiding corporate restatements. Companies with three of more women on the board reported a 37 percent increase in earnings between 2011-16 compared to an 8 percent decline for companies with no women on their boards, according to a study from MSCI ESG Research.
Last October California passed Senate Bill 826, which requires any publicly-held corporation headquartered in California to have a "representative number of women on its board of directors." According to Wired magazine, this will require hundreds of Californian companies to make changes to their current boards including those in the Silicon Valley. Several major tech companies—including Apple, Google parent Alphabet, and Facebook—will likely have to add women to their boards of directors by mid-2021 to meet the new California law.
It’s too bad that laws are required to force companies to put more women in CEO and board positions. I was lucky to be asked to sit on the board of a startup during the dot com boom and worked to accomplish the primary goal of any startup which is to achieve exit, generally to be purchased rather than to go public. I surprised a friend the other day when I told her about this experience and that we delivered more than 4,000 percent return on investment for our shareholders. And I don’t think there needs to be special programs to train women to be executives. We don’t have them for men so why would we need them for women. All we need is for some smart CEOs to begin hiring or promoting women into positions that they are often over qualified for and more that ready to take on (women generally must have more on their resumes, such as MBA’s from top schools, than men). If men need any examples, just look at Safra Katz at Oracle who has achieved significant growth for the company since Larry Ellison brought her into the organization (she recently became the first female billionaire).
My advice for women starting out is to research the industry they want to work in, find an opening in the market and start their own company. We need to stop asking men to give us a seat at the table. Instead we need to decide who will sit at ours.