In the UK, 2018 is the centenary anniversary of women being given the right to vote.  With this in mind, we thought it was a good opportunity to reflect on the importance of women in business.

There has been much talk recently of the presence and treatment of women in the workplace, and irrespective of people’s personal opinions, there is no doubt that there has been a shift in the mentality of women’s place in the workplace.  Many accepted assumptions have been questioned recently and have been ever since the suffragettes fought so hard to get women the right to vote a century ago. 

Most recently, as Gender Equality is one of the five themes at this year’s G7 summit, the leaders heard a presentation of recommendations on Friday 8th June by the Gender Equality Advisory Council.  As well as ensuring that girls and women in G7 countries are safe, healthy, educated, heard, and empowered, the Council advised that economies should be ‘prosperous, innovative, inclusive, and more equitable’ and that societies are where ‘girls and women are equally represented in decision-making bodies, and are free from harassment and violence’.

One section of the report by the Council includes the role of women in the private sector.  The section suggests, to name a few,  increasing women’s representation in managerial and executive positions with the aim of achieving 50% female CEOs and board members by 2030.  Gender-responsive policies to access external vendors on how they perform with regards to gender equality. Policies that address barriers such as pay gaps and leave policies that currently negatively affect women.  Adoption of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles for business offering guidance on how to empower, increase opportunities and create sustainable senior positions for women in the workplace. Annual reporting on the gender split on boards and in senior positions Commitment to setting dates that companies will comply to gender equality on boards and leadership positions by 2030. 

There have been several reports produced recently on the difference between men and women in the workplace.  Notably, Grant Thornton produced a report last year (“Women in Business.  New perspectives on risk and reward”) that stated that, amongst other things, the number of women in senior positions has risen by just 1% from 2016 to 2017 (24% - 25%); and that, in contrast, the number of organisations with no females at a senior level has risen equally by 1% (33% to 34%) in the same timeframe.

The report also found that the perceptions of risk and opportunity, both considered fundamental to the success of a business, are similar for men and women.  With regards to risk, the report stated that, “Given that women are perceived to be less likely to engage in risky behaviour, we expected our findings to show that women see more risk than men. [However] in eight out of ten categories, men see higher risk than women. The exceptions are security and, to a lesser extent, competitor activity”.  Similarly, with opportunity, the report shows that “men and women rank opportunity in a similar way. Economic change tops the list for both sexes. Other areas of opportunity to consider are competitor activity, personnel, and technological change. Again, media activity, social change and environmental change appear low down”.

Another report by Catalyst (“The Bottom Line: Connecting Corporate Performance and Gender Diversity”) shows that businesses with the highest representation of women in senior positions experienced better financial performance than those with lower female representation.  Indeed, they suggest that the ROE is as much as 35% higher and TRS 34% higher.  The numbers are based on 353 F500 companies recorded between 1996 and 2000.

The Peterson Institute for International Economics supported this view in their report (“Is Gender Diversity Profitable?”) by suggesting that businesses with no female leaders who moved to a more gender-equal environment, would increase their net revenue margin by 15%.  They unequivocally state that there is a distinct connection between the number of senior female representation and a firm’s profitability.

It has been noted, however, that it isn’t enough to just employ females into the top jobs. They need to be nurtured within the company and progress organically for maximum impact amongst female peers with the same equal opportunities, to thrive and create an environment of creating “a pipeline of female managers and not simply getting lone women to the top" which is critical.

These reports show the importance of embracing and encouraging the differences and similarities between men and women, as businesses can only become more successful overall by having a balanced gender representation.  The differences between men and women should be considered as balanced and complementary, and therefore it’s unhealthy to have one without the other.

Given that women account for nearly 50% of the world’s population, it seems only appropriate that female businesses leaders are fairly represented; and not just in the workplace but in every area of society, females should be more fairly represented.

For more on this or to find out how we can further support your business contact us

SmartPA Partner Charlotte Frank

Charlotte had supported executives in London as a Personal Assistant for 17 years prior to moving into project management within a global investment bank. Charlotte's key skills lie in core administrative duties as well as event management, project management, research, data analysis and the creation of presentations.