Why empowering women makes for good business
by Buyi Mafoko (@BuyiMafoko) While much has been written about the need to increase gender diversity in the workplace, many corporate leaders and decision-makers still regard this as another box to tick. This is outdated thinking. Increasingly, research is revealing that employing more females, and more specifically, female leaders, leads to better business results.
According to a 2016 study published by the Harvard Business Review, firms with more women in the C-suite are more profitable. Indeed, when examining the profitable firms in the study sample, researchers found that going from having no women in corporate leadership (the CEO, the board, and other C-suite positions) to a 30% female share is associated with a 1%-point increase in nett margin — which translates to a staggering 15% increase in profitability for a typical firm! Such results have been supported by other studies, and one only needs to look at leading firms today (Apple, Facebook, PepsiCo) to grasp the significance of female leadership in the global business ecosystem.
Here at home, we certainly have much work to do with regards to raising the profile of women in the workplace. One media release published by Statistics SA stated that “gender representation is still below the 50% mark for positions that come with a great deal of influence.” According to government data from 2014, women comprised 32% of Supreme Court of Appeal judges, 31% of advocates, 30% of ambassadors and 24% of heads of state-owned enterprises. In the second quarter of 2018, 32% of managers in South Africa were women.
Removing self-imposed barriers
So where to from here?
First, as women, we must have the confidence that we can lead. We must believe that we can excel, and that, when we’re faced with challenges, we can ask for support from other women — and men — without being labelled as incapable. Today, a collective lack of self-confidence in the workplace is undoubtedly holding many highly capable female professionals back. It’s time we remove the self-imposed limits and go for what we want in any sector of society!
Importantly, we don’t need to become as ‘hard’ as men to demand our rightful positions, remuneration and respect. As women, we no longer need to ask for permission, and we should exercise our voices of authority without having to sacrifice others on the way up.
Today, the policies contained within National and Economic Development plans give women a seat at the table to contribute to key political and social shifts. We must leverage this. In years past, we experienced generations of leaders who perpetuated patriarchal societies and economies. Now, women are needed in key decision-making positions to employ ‘softer’ skills and to ensure that business is mindful of its social impact. Critically, women are needed to ensure that businesses are not putting profitability before people.
Driving inclusive growth
Beyond the narrow concept of profit, women can bring the perspective of inclusivity into business — and create sustainable value for the communities in which businesses operate. As women, we are intuitive and integrated thinkers, and can therefore bring the more-holistic lens that business sorely needs today. Notably, emotions can no longer be considered unimportant — as women are able to offer the counsel required to connect with consumers, which is pivotal to business success in today’s era of social media and hyper-connectivity.
As we look ahead, we must take into account that diversity beyond race and gender is critical in offering an interconnected experience that breeds creativity and innovation. In short, diversity (of all kinds) boosts overall business performance and value creation. Now is the time to act.
Buyi Mafoko (@BuyiMafoko) is the managing director and co-founder at Leratadima Marketing, a 100%-black-owned integrated marketing agency. She is an accomplished entrepreneur, speaker and mentor who’s built her business from the ground up.
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.
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