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Transformation: The power of one woman

Friday, August 30, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Anne Perschel

Once upon a time, there was a mid-size firm called The Company, run by men. The entire executive team and all board directors at The Company were men. Everything was fine, until one day...

The CEO nominated a woman board director. Trouble began. First Woman was on the board for a year before she suggested to the CEO another woman be placed on the board. Because he appreciated First Woman’s contributions, the CEO nominated Second Woman and The Board now had two women directors. Shortly thereafter, the CEO heard rumblings about the need for more women at senior levels of The Company.

Geesh.

The CEO was not prepared for that, but the rumblings got louder. When he could no longer pretend he didn’t hear the outcry, the CEO put the issue on the board’s agenda.

Some board members explained how companies with more women in senior leadership roles achieved better financial results than competitors with fewer women leaders. The CEO thought this would be a good outcome for The Company. So, the CEO spoke about this idea to his executive team, which now included one woman. He explained The Company had benefited from more women on the board, as expected. The return on shareholder equity had increased. He explained how additional financial benefits accrue to companies with more women in senior leadership. Innovation, he said, was critical to The Company’s future. Diverse perspectives and thinking would contribute to innovation.

Change snowballs

The executives started to change things at The Company. They began to look for leaders with different styles and ways of thinking. They were surprised at how many talented women leaders they found inside their own company, simply by looking with different eyes. The executives began to champion talented women for promotion.

These champions made sure each talented woman knew the right people, and more importantly, that the right people knew her. Each champion asked her about her successes and her unique leadership edge. She, in turn, learned how to talk about her success and her talents without fear of bragging or sounding egotistical. Everyone won.

These changes started to trickle down, and up. Women in The Company felt more valued, so they spoke up more. Their ideas were heard, discussed and implemented. The Company became more innovative. New products were doing well. Sales people shifted their approach to focus on customer relationships instead of talking solely about The Company’s products. Everyone collaborated more.

Because of these changes and positive outcomes, The Company decided to spread the word about being a culture that benefited from women’s leadership. They hosted a mentoring and networking event for women. Word spread about The Company as a good place for women, and other talented members of under-represented groups, to work. The Company became an employer of choice. The culture kept evolving. Women in The Company’s customer base wanted to do business with The Company.

This is what happened because The CEO invited one woman onto the board, and it is not the end of the story. Women continue to hold board director seats at The Company, and now there are more women leaders and managers as well. In fact, there is more overall diversity at The Company and innovation continues to happen.

The lesson is this: If you invite one woman to join your board, it might be just the beginning of a series of changes that continue for a very long time. Are you ready for that?

Dr. Anne Perschel is a leadership psychologist with Germane Consulting and co-founder and chief inspiration officer at 3Plus International, a career lab for high achieving and high potential women.

Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and sponsors.

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