February 5, 2018

Editorial: The importance of diversity

Say you're the man – CEO of your own company. You've got a senior team of five executives who've been with you for many years, and a board of advisors made up of five long-time industry friends. One of your senior staff is a woman, and all of your directors are men. So, of those top 10 influential positions in your firm, 10 percent is female. However, when it comes to your employees, half are men and half are women. Your current team is performing well, yet you believe diversity makes your company better. What are you supposed to do?

This issue of the Worcester Business Journal includes the first of a three-part series on gender diversity in leadership, called The Boardroom Gap. We start this edition with the data – showing how many women are in leadership positions, as senior executives and board members, at Central Massachusetts' top public, private and nonprofit organizations. There is no question more women are in leadership positions today than a generation ago, but improving on the past doesn't necessarily mean we've reached the right level of diversity. While women represent 49 percent the workforce, they don't come close to half the leadership in our companies. We don't know the right percentage, and it may differ by company/industry, but The Boston Club – an organization putting out annual reports on gender diversity in leadership among Massachusetts public companies – suggests hitting a 30-percent threshold would put a firm among the leaders in Massachusetts. While 39 of the 75 organizations WBJ examined hit this standard, none of them were Central Massachusetts public companies. It is clear the diversity of our workforce is not reflected in the profile of senior leadership.

What has brought this topic of women in leadership to the fore? Has it been the stream of shocking stories about men behaving badly – from Harvey Weinstein to Larry Nassar? Would the organizations these men worked for have responded differently, and in a more timely basis, were there more women in leadership positions? We'd like to think so. But that is not the issue we're addressing in this series. Nor are we addressing the issue of equal pay for equal work – the data we can access on pay is insufficient to derive any conclusive evidence on that front. Our report also is limited to gender diversity and not overall diversity including race, sexual orientation or age. We've focused on gender diversity, and the evidence shows there is ample room for improvement.

Certain industries attract more female workers than others – education, health care and social services, to name a few. More traditionally male dominated industries like construction, manufacturing and technology make it harder for those sectors to build a diverse workforce and leadership team. But if we treat today's measure as ground zero, nearly all employers can up their game. It's going to take a whole mix of steps to achieve more leadership diversity. Mentorships, coaching, encouragement, training and the opportunity to lead are needed to develop tomorrow's leaders. In the short term, any company hitting its numbers and making a good profit can defend the current state. But over the long run company leadership should reflect the diversity of its employees, and ultimately the diversity of its customers. The most successful companies will find that right mix.

Read the entire The Boardroom Gap series

Read the entire Boardroom Gap series

Feb. 5 edition

– WBJ's Findings: Women vastly underrepresented in Central Mass. corporate leadership

The Pay Gap: Central Mass. male executives make $1.3M vs. $573K for women

Editorial Opinion: The importance of diversity

– Letter from the Editor: Can't keep doing the same thing and expect different results

Feb. 19 edition

- Feeling Marginalized: Central Mass. businesswomen who've sat in positions of power say they don't get the same automatic credibility as men

Gender Diversity = Profits: Companies with a greater mix of women in leadership perform better

March 5 edition

Narrowing the Boardroom Gap: Financial, legislative and cultural pressures are creating more gender diverse business leadership

The Best Candidate Gets the Job: Diverse candidate pools lead to diverse companies, leading local firms say

Letter from the Editor: Now comes the hard part

Viewpoint Opinion: Women of color need to break the concrete ceiling


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