How Diversity in the Boardroom is Boosting Employee Morale

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When I was a little girl, I knew men made more money than women and almost always held higher positions too.  It was a fact of life.  In my neighborhood, fathers were the main breadwinners while mothers either stayed home or filled the financial gaps with part-time or temporary jobs.  Full-time female workers were few and far between.  Even rarer was the woman who managed to land a management position.  I can count on one hand the females I knew with any legitimate professional power and influence.  I can’t even imagine how small those numbers were for minority women at that time.

As I grew, I noticed a distinct change in the societal norm.  If you’re older than thirty-five, you probably experienced the same dramatic shift.  Moms either needed to or wanted to work.  And with that, ladies began to find role models.  Whether it was Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate representing a major American political party or famous business icons like Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, girls finally had multiple women to emulate.  In turn, we began to proclaim, “if she can do it, I can do it.”  Anything was possible.

It may seem obvious to you then that boosting employee morale is as easy as placing more women and minorities into influential positions.  Well, you’re not alone.  2020 Women on Boards is a national campaign to increase the percentage of females on U.S. boards to 20% or more by the year 2020.  Malli Gero, co-founder and president says, “research shows that gender diversity is good business and results in higher sales, greater corporate morale, and better return on investment for stakeholders.”  Those are three seemingly compelling reasons for companies to hurry up and get with the program.

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Sadly, diversity in the boardroom and upper management remains at what you might call a deplorable level. Globally, women hold between fifteen and eighteen percent of the available director positions, depending on which study or survey you read.  This is partly because turnover on boards is low.  The good news is that the numbers have been growing steadily, if not quickly, over the last decade.

Recent pressures from activists and investors have prompted boards to increase their number of minorities and females.  The alternative is to face backlash and criticism from the media and other powerful groups if these changes are not made.  Perhaps you’ve heard of organizations like the Forte Foundation, the Thirty Percent Coalition, and the Professional Diversity Network that are not only shining a much-needed light on this topic but providing resources to underrepresented professionals in an attempt to speed up the process of parity.

A Reason to Smile

Minorities and women are taking notice of the recent changes in corporate demographics.  Research shows that role models have a positive effect on stigmatized and under-represented populations.  Having someone to look up to in a company setting increases motivations, the number of goals set, and interest in advancement by those in lower positions.  You might not be surprised by any of this, but it’s nice to have evidence for the obvious, right?

Additionally, businesses with relatively high percentages of female managers and board members tend to take on issues important to stigmatized groups.  Corporate programs that spotlight and address equal pay, flexible work schedules, mentorship, and charitable contributions are increasingly popular.  As a result, the future is looking a little brighter for us and will probably continue to do so.

Related Reading: 7 Deadliest Sins of the Struggling Career Woman

Career expectations for women have certainly changed and grown over the past thirty years.  Gone are the days when we put absolute limits on our professional potential.  Big business is likely to continue boosting employee morale with improved representation of marginalized groups in positions of power.  Do you think we are headed in the right direction?  What other actions should corporate America take to ensure equality?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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Increased diversity in the boardroom is boosting employee morale.  Particularly women and minorities.  Equality is not only possible but inevitable.  A must read!

32 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t live in America, so my perspective is different to yours. Yes, more men are in leadership at work than woman, but the real issue here is the racial card. Used to be the top slots went to the whites. Now whites are in danger of being retrenched because of their skin colour. It should really be who is best fit for the job – whether in your country or mine!

    • Hello, Shirley. It should absolutely come down to who is right for the position. Sadly, It’s more about who you know and what race or gender you are. Hopefully, things will star to change more quickly than they have in the past. Thanks for sharing your international perspective.

  2. Living in the UK, I know little about women in the USA women in the corporate world. I do know that women are becoming more high profile within companies and their businesses. It is difficult (but not impossible) for women to maintain their status after taking multiple maternity leaves. ML is rather generous in Europe (up to a year) and may mean you miss promotions and other development opportunities whilst out of action.

    • Hi, Phoenicia. Thanks for your international perspective. The U.S. has a much less generous ML policy and women still have a difficult time making it to the top of large companies or to the board of directors. Things are changing, but far too slowly.

  3. I think for women to succeed in corporate America, we need to do more to assist women in being career women while being mothers. At least for the women who would like to do both. So many moms I know (even many with advanced degrees) no longer work. Many offices are filled with women in their 20s and 30s. And then as we get to the age range when people are more likely to be at the career level to be leaders, the professional pool becomes disproportionately male. Of course, it is often harder for a woman to get a promotion. But I think so many women leaving the work force is another part of the problem.

    • Hello, Erica. What you say is true. Women have babies or just realize they are not going to be promoted as quickly as the men around her. Many women leave the workforce or start their own businesses. Women need to help mentor other women on the job and management needs to invest more in promoting us at a fair pace.

    • Hi, Haralee. Yeah, I sincerely hope corporations don’t think 20% is satisfactory. It’s just a short term goal. We are, after all, 50% of the population. Thanks for your input.

  4. Diversity, payment equality cannot always be judged by if you are going into the right direction.
    It is not a race, with a starting point to an ending point. We see this in some progressive movements in politics. When there is a change, there is a pushback. Sometimes the old way, the old regime takes over. But, when they do, society does not go back to the original spot it was before, it has moved slightly.
    This is the classic, two steps forward, one step back. but over time, you will end up moving where you want to go.

    • Hi, William. I appreciate your thoughtful answer. Two steps forward and one step back is an excellent description of the progress of women and minorities in the workforce. It’s not easy to be patient when at the current pace, pay and status will not be equal in my lifetime or even my daughter’s.

  5. I’m often shocked when speaking to Millennial women who don’t think there is a glass ceiling, even though as you show in the graph, there most certainly is. I realized things were starting to change when I was in my mid-30s and bought my first house in the small town of Red Lodge, Montana. I thought I was pretty cool. Then I found out that in my small block, there were 4 other homes owned by single women! That’s when I knew the tide was turning. But gosh, is it ever turning slowly.

    I blame a lot of our issues on Hollywood stereo-typing of women in the USA. They depict us wearing boob-revealing tops, mini-skirts, impossibly high heels–in jobs like cops, coroners, attorneys…you get my drift.

    • Hello, RoseMary. There is, of course, still a glass ceiling and probably will be for the foreseeable future. Things have changed for the better over the last few decades, but we certainly have not reached parity. Is the glass half empty or half full? I can’t decide.

  6. Great post, Jen. It is indeed so encouraging to see a more reflective demographic of general society in the board room today. Gone are the days when boards are almost exclusively comprised of white men, and now reflect women, visible minorities and everyone who can make a valuable contribution.

    • Hey, Doreen. Thanks for your input. I am relieved to see progress, although it is painfully slow. The strides we have made in the boardroom recently seem to be a result of media or societal pressure rather than some epiphany by the heads of major corporations. I wish the changes were a result of common sense thinking rather than arm twisting.

  7. Very informative. I do think we’re heading in the right direction, just not nearly fast enough. There are still far too many ‘old school’ minds in charge of the boardroom and our entire country for that matter and for proof of that all one need do is look at a photo of the all male executive staff huddled in the WH. We just have to keep pushing.

    • Hi again, Marquita. We are definitely headed in the right direction but at a snail’s pace. Hopefully, public pressure will keep these boards on the straight and narrow. Thanks for your feedback.

  8. No discussion of diversity and role models would be complete without bringing academia into the mix. What about the paucity of female and minority tenured professors at colleges and universities, particularly in STEM-related fields? Slow-but-steady progress has also been made in this area but more work needs to be done.

    • Hello, Andrew. STEM has not been friendly or welcoming to women and minorities. Last year, I enrolled my daughter in a science camp and there were only 2 other girls in a class of 13. Minorities were not well represented either. This type of early stereotyping does not help society. Think of how many truly gifted and talented children and young adults were not encouraged or nurtured in the areas science or academia. Perhaps we missed out on people who could have cured horrendous diseases or made technological breakthroughs.

  9. I’ve hardly understood the male/female divide. Any system based on Merit works best. Vision, mission and implementation should take priority..Unfortunately it doesn’t work out that way:)

    • Hi, Ravindra. Yes, a system based on merit should absolutely be used at every company. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the way it works sometimes.

    • Hey, Sushmita. Anytime you would like to give me your international perspective, I’ll take it. I find it fascinating how different countries and cultures handle complex issues.

  10. I love this. Extremely insightful, being a black woman about to enter the work force diversity inclusion is extremely important to me.

    • Hey, Sydney. I’m so thankful you loved this post. I hope you have much success in your burgeoning career. Stop by again soon, please.

  11. I am very fortunate to work for a top 10 fortune 100 company which celebrated diversity at the upper level, we have every minority represented that I can imagine and more women that I have ever seen in leadership roles. It definitely depends on the company mentality and what they value

    • Oh, Julia. I am thrilled to hear that. That certainly helps every woman out there who is working at a company that doesn’t embrace diversity. I’ll take slow change over no change. Thanks for showing me a ray of hope.

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