Backing innovation: The smart leader’s money should be on female founders

Backing innovation: The smart leader’s money should be on female founders

We have known for a long time that women led businesses perform well. In a study analyzing the relationship between the composition of corporate boards and financial performance, Catalyst, a research organization on women and business, found a greater return on investment, equity and sales in IT companies that have directors who are women. And yet many companies – not only IT companies – struggle to attract and retain high performing, senior women. But it’s not only women at the top that drive business value. While the gender pay gap remains resolutely at an unacceptable level – women continue to earn about 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man – we also know that diversity in the workforce also creates benefit for companies, industries and whole economies. For example, eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost a country’s GDP by up to 34%. This means that there’s a positive multiplier effect that comes from eliminating the gender pay gap – yet the logic of the situation in no way guarantees the change that would improve all our lives. Clearly, we need to focus on a pipeline of female talent and strategies to engage, support, strengthen and retain women as they move through our enterprises. We also need to continue to push for equal pay and opportunity where ever possible. But what about the startup sector – the high growth businesses that are generating unprecedented wealth across the globe? Given the fast moving, high growth focus of most venture capital and investment firms, it would be easy to think that the smart VC money...
Five Essentials for Your Disruptive Innovation Radar

Five Essentials for Your Disruptive Innovation Radar

No matter where we look across our businesses we see technology driven change and transformation opportunities. There are challenges to business models, new operating models on the horizon and disruptive competitors knocking on our customer’s doors. And, of course, where we find challenges, we find options for growth. For leaders, however, the challenge is not necessarily responding to this disruption – it’s predicting it. Now, I know what you’re thinking … disruptive innovation or change is disruptive precisely because it cannot be predicted. And while this is true to a certain extent, it’s equally true that disruption doesn’t come from nowhere. There are trends, pressures, movements and shifts that help us see them in advance. And this is why you need a disruptive innovation radar. Here’s what I mean. For leaders, it’s essential to cultivate the entrepreneurs mindset – and this means finding ways and means of stepping, and staying, outside of our natural comfort zones. Here are five ways to do this: Keep a watching brief on the new: Stay curious by observing, watching and listening to the early adopters within your network. Better yet, take a single step beyond your network – to a colleague of a colleague – and arrange a meeting, coffee or get together. Learn what is happening on the fringe of your business consciousness. Seek the problem worth solving: Not all challenges that you uncover in your business life will be worth pursuing. Find the problems that appear intractable. Look for the challenges where teams continue to fail. When you find a customer opportunity wrapped in a problem worth solving, you’re on the...
The Entrepreneur’s Mindset – Finding the Comfort in Discomfort

The Entrepreneur’s Mindset – Finding the Comfort in Discomfort

Anyone that knows me, knows I love food. When I travel, I seek out textures and flavors. It’s exciting to learn how experiences and cultures intermingle – how the taste of the same dish delivered on opposite sides of the world changes. For example, those of you who have traveled to Japan, know that edamame can vary not just from restaurant to restaurant – but also from city to city and country to country. The edamame I get from my local restaurant is very different to that served in downtown Tokyo. When we travel, we carry with us an expectation, that our favorite foods will be the same, but different. We know this is the case and in most cases we are fine with this. We take that risk – and we take it because we know and understand the reward that comes with the risk. It’s in the food, its flavor and the experience of eating in a new, unexplored place. The risk is very much part of the experience. And as someone who travels a great deal, I have become increasingly fascinated with the power of our own thinking, with our mindset and how it can transform not just our business or our experiences. It can, in fact, change our worlds. As leaders, we are well versed in risk management. We are constantly balancing risk and reward on behalf of our businesses, stakeholders and shareholders. We build processes and governance on the one hand, to help manage risk at an organizational level, while on the other, we seek and push the limits of growth to drive business...
Culture Beyond Equality

Culture Beyond Equality

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act marked a significant milestone in advancing equal pay for all workers. Seven years later, the median wage of a woman working full-time year-round in the United States remains only 79 percent of a man’s median earnings. And while this marks an improvement (back in 2008, the ratio was approximately 75 percent), it’s also a clear indicator that there is more work to be done. President Obama’s announcement of additional measures to close the gap will bring much-needed focus and attention on work that needs to be done. In particular, I am excited to learn that the White House is to host a summit on “The United State of Women” on May 23rd. For many years, I have championed a focus on women leaders, gender diversity and the way that leveraging female talent can drive innovation and profitability. I firmly believe that while equality is important, it is just one element in a broader mix of initiatives that needs to be addressed in parallel. Equality is not just the right thing for people, it’s the right thing for business, innovation, and profitability. Recent research by Silvia Anne Hewlett reveals a remarkable correlation between inclusive leadership, innovative output, and market growth – what she calls a “speak up culture”. We find that at publicly traded companies with two-dimensional diversity—where the senior leadership team has both inherent diversity in terms of gender, age, and race,and an acquired appreciation for difference based on experience and learning—employees are 70% more likely than those at non-diverse publicly traded companies to report having captured a new market in the last...
Do Women in Leadership Offer More Opportunities for their Female Employees?

Do Women in Leadership Offer More Opportunities for their Female Employees?

Corporate America has worked hard for the past several decades to try to solve the problem of wage inequality between the genders. It is commonly known that women earn only about 75% of the income that men in similar roles with similar experience earn. This injustice pushed many companies to pursue more women in leadership positions. The hope was that as more women moved into leadership positions in companies, the wage gap would naturally narrow, because surely women managers would treat their female employees fairly. Unfortunately, a new study performed at the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business shows that this is not the case. According to the Fast Company article, Why Isn’t Having More Women in Leadership Budging the Gender Wage Gap? by Lydia Dishman, women who have female managers actually have a slightly lower wage than women with male managers. The study found that women who switched from a male manager to a female manager could expect a pay decrease of about 1.4%. While this is a small percentage, it is a move in the wrong direction for women’s pay overall. Plus the distinction became greater if the female employee was low-performing. Low-performing female employees could expect to make 30% less than an equally low-performing male employee who switched from a male manager to a female manager. The theory is that women who have risen to the top of corporations have had to work really hard to earn their place. These women have a competitive drive and some of them aren’t interested in making it any easier for the women that will come after them....
Women Who Lead

Women Who Lead

We hear a lot of talk about gender inequality at all levels. From the board room to the call center and everywhere in-between, we seem to have a problem. This is particularly in the technology field where qualified women are abandoning the industry in record numbers. In 2014, “big tech” got together to analyze the situation, releasing a report that showed that men outnumbered women 4:1 – or more – in their technical sectors. And we’re not talking “old skool” tech companies here – we are talking Google, Apple and Facebook. Collectively we are facing a huge challenge. Not only do we face the challenge of attracting women into the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM), once they are there, we have trouble retaining them. It’s an issue of culture. As I have suggested previously, we need to put a STEM in STEM for Women. Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Talent Innovation sums it up: It’s a really frustrating thing. The pipeline may not improve much unless women can look ahead and see it’s a valuable investment. But the news is not all bad. Monique Thorpe has created a website that showcases and celebrates the real worlds of women. There are already dozens of interviews of business owners, innovators, artists and activists. In fact, they come from all walks of life. Some of these women are early career. Some are executives. Some are following their own paths. Earlier this month I was featured as one of the women who lead. But there are plenty more. Take a few minutes to read the stories of...