This great One-Minute MBA video is worth watching again. And again. And again. There are two main takeaways from the Harvard Business Review studies discussed in the video and the blog post: that women get fewer chances at leadership, and that having women in leadership roles substantially improves business results. All women—whether a mom or not, or working or not—should take a moment to celebrate the factual evidence of the effectiveness of female leadership. Let’s also address the elephant in the room: Why are women leaders so effective and yet so absent?
Studies show many of our best and brightest leave the workforce
A Forbes article reported that women are choosing to stop the corporate climb:
A 2009 study from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business found that 28% of women with Harvard MBAs had left the workforce 15 years after receiving their degree. A 2010 study of MBAs from top business schools by University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that female MBA’s hours and labor force participation fell by an average of 24% and 18% three to four years after their first child’s birth. These statistics highlight the national conundrum women face balancing family with career, and an acute problem every company should be worried about: a sizable pool of the most highly-educated, highly-skilled women in their ranks are either fleeing their organizations or foregoing job opportunities, determining that juggling family and work demands is too obstacle-ridden to justify.
The article goes on to suggest that it is necessary to adopt more policies to keep women engaged in business over the long-term, including telecommuting and better benefits such as family leave and fertility coverage. The author also states that the best evidence of commitment to women by companies is in the number of women they employ in leadership roles.
Re-framing the conversation: how this affects everyone
As the Forbes article argues, policies that enable women to continue to compete are important. But the issue is even bigger than that. How would a single, 20-something view an organization’s adoption of better benefits for moms? How does a man view the issue? Too often, businesses address the topic of supporting women with all of their stakeholders in terms of what it costs. For example, businesses often manage maternity as “leave and risk” and ask employees to cover those obstacles. Rarely do businesses budget for temporary or consultant help.
As another example, management will hire female talent and offer her flexibility and/or other perks and turn around and ask other employees to be less flexible and/or work more. At the end of the day, these practices are a business model of “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Reaping the collective rewards female business leaders bring
What is so exciting about the Harvard Business Review’s findings is that they reframe the conversation from the cost of supporting women in business to the benefits and necessity of it. Findings such as “a business group’s collective IQ goes up with women on the team,” and “organizations with women on their boards have 42% higher sales returns, 66% higher return on invested capital, and 53% higher return on equity” show how all business stakeholders profit by having diversity and balance in business leadership and policies.
Ultimately, isn’t that a more sustainable and beneficial business model for everyone?