Twenty years ago, the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” was released, and it remains so popular that a remake is reportedly in the works. It’s funny, and it’s based in Los Angeles, so it has two strong things going for it.
Regarding the title, though: I beg to differ. White men seem to be doing very well in jumping – at least, to the top of the corporate ranks. It’s women whose feet are held to the floor.
Although women actually make up the majority of the U.S. population, you wouldn’t know it by looking at our representation in the c-suite. Among Fortune 500 companies, women represent five percent of CEOs and only 15 percent of executive officers. And women hold only 19 percent of all board of director seats in the S&P.
It’s not for lack of interest, although family considerations may hinder momentum to a greater extent for women than for men. A 2016 Gallup poll shows that 45 percent of women would like to become a CEO or have a position in senior management. So what can women do to jump in their own careers and in the process, help close the executive gender gap?
Three things are critical for women to achieve executive equity. Corporations must make a strong commitment to a diverse workplace, including in upper management. Educational institutions must provide opportunities and a clear vision of steps needed for career trajectory. And women should leverage their own unique values as they progress through the corporate pipeline to both accelerate their path to the c-suite and benefit their organizations.
DIVERSITY LEADS TO STRONGER MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
Prioritizing diversity initiatives in workplace, with women in co-equal positions of responsibility, is one way that companies can challenge the status quo and position themselves for continuous re-invention.
Good leaders embrace diversity of opinion, regardless of race, gender, political affiliation, religion, business experience, educational level, and other factors. Pepperdine Graziadio alumnus David Feinberg, president and chief executive officer of Geisinger Health, said that after he joined the company, he sought to learn from people on the frontlines -- not just the medical team, but also cooking staff, nutritionists and others – in order to build an out-of-the-box, innovative organization. Corporations who seek to create a diverse workplace, including elevating women to executive positions, will find greater success.
EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES EXPOSE WOMEN TO THE POSSIBLE
A recent study in Science Magazine suggested that by the age of 6, girls are more likely to lose faith in their abilities, believing that “brilliance” is a male trait — a finding that the lead researcher called “heartbreaking.” If, at an early age, brilliance is associated only with men, while girls stop believing that they can succeed, how can women see themselves in leadership roles, let alone propel themselves there?
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