Have you noticed the steady drumbeat of research studies coming out over the last 5 years – I mean real, serious research – that find that when more than 30% of an organizations’ leadership is made up of working women, the organization is measurably more successful? When I first started reading about this research, almost a year ago, I thought that this must be little more than an anecdotal feminist narrative that women are great. I was about to dismiss it as wishful research (on my part and others’) when I stumbled across studies by McKinsey & Associates (2007) and Catalyst (2010) that probably started all the subsequent studies.
Reading more deeply I noticed a few things that made me sit up and take notice – these studies included exhaustive analysis across sector, country and organization size. They documented improvements in organizations with women in leadership as measured by productivity, profitability, corporate culture and sustainability – in ten different categories of performance. Catalyst’s 2011 numbers show that companies with a significant percentage of women on their boards performed better than those with no women on their boards by 84% return on sales, 60% return on invested capital, and 46% return on equity.
All this women-are-good-for-business stuff wasn’t a fluke! I began researching this phenomenon more deeply, as of today InPower Women has indexed over 200 research studies since 2007 that measure the positive impact of women in business and that paint an intricate reality about the potential and challenges of women in business and the economy.
Then I started talking to other working women – my colleagues, clients and friends – about this research, many of whom were in positions of power in businesses, nonprofits and government. They all said, “Really? I had no idea! How cool!” What? They didn’t know either? I was shocked and felt compelled to get the word out.
The Woman Effect Was Born
The fact is that a significant presence of female leaders in an organization measurably contributes to its health and wealth. Period.
Know what this means? It means that even with our negative self-talk, feeling never enough and work-life struggles – we are more than enough and we have become a critical ingredient for economic success.
It means something else too. It means that when we get rid of the negative self-talk, feelings of never enough and work-life guilt, women have the potential to be an even more significant factor in healing our economy and our world.
In fact, economists at The World Bank and other development institutions have been doing parallel research in developing nations and found that when girls and women thrive in villages and towns anywhere on the globe, their communities and economies are healthier and wealthier. I tip my hat to The Girl Effect for getting this word out through philanthropic circles over the last few years. And yes, I chose “The Woman Effect” to reflect this parallelism – because it is indeed the same phenomenon. For many reasons, which I’ll delve into more deeply in future blog posts, the female of our species is equipped to make every effort she is a part of thrive. What the research is showing in developed and developing economies both is that our impact on business is no different than our impact in little villages and organizations everywhere. The Woman Effect is in our blood, hearts and minds. It’s part of who we are.
No More Excuses
The Woman Effect has one other implication, which is the reason I’m devoting my professional life to exploring it, raising awareness of it, giving it voice and inviting others to join me and create a powerful chorus. Here it is: now that we know The Woman Effect is not just some wishful idea but real, every woman who participates in the economy which means all of us (even if you ‘stay at home’ and exercise consumer power and raise the next generation of economic participants) – we all bear a responsibility to activate our personal leadership power to play a significant role in the economy. We bear this responsibility whatever that looks like in each of our individual lives – whether you aspire to be on a Fortune 100 board, run a kickass small-or-not-so-small business and/or play a leadership role in your volunteer and family life. Why is this your responsibility? Because it all matters. Because it is your world. And because you can.
For me, personally, this means no more excuses. No more whining. No more victimization. My intention from here on out is to use the personal power within me that I can use to activate change and good things in the world. Starting with this. Starting with you.
What about you? Are you ready to put the excuses aside and activate The Woman Effect in your life? In your business? If something is in your way, how will you let it go so you can claim your power to lead? What will it take for you to say “no more excuses”?
Activate the Woman Effect and download The Woman Effect Manifesta today!
I welcome thoughts – and especially declarations of how you are living The Woman Effect in your own life – in comments below. Please share this page and invite others!