Women impact financial results.  According to a 2004 study by Catalyst, a women’s research and advisory organization, Fortune 500 companies with the highest percentages of women corporate officers saw, on average, 35{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} higher return on equity and a 34{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} higher return to shareholders than companies with the lowest percentages of female corporate officers.  What is it that women naturally bring that is helping companies succeed?

In my recent interview with David B. Dillon, CEO of The Kroger Company, he shared that the majority of shopping is still done by women although there are more men now shopping.  He felt it was vital for companies to understand women’s viewpoints, as they are not only every day shoppers, but are increasingly making important business decisions.  To adequately understand them, corporations must have more women at the executive levels of their organizations.  Dillon feels that female executives provide a different level of understanding of shopping habits and buying decisions not possible with a totally male team.  Kroger has grown to be the #1 food chain in the U.S., with over 3,500 stores, so learning to listen to women has worked for them.

What if there had been more women leaders in the financial institutions that collapsed in the last two years?  A recent report from The National Council for Research on Women took a close look at the lack of women in leadership roles in fund management.  The report cites several well-documented studies showing that women invest differently than men — they hold investments longer, take less risk, and use a more comprehensive decision-making process.  Because of the economic crisis, the market emphasis has shifted from highly leveraged opportunities and high risk trading to initiatives demanding reform, greater oversight, and longer-term investing strategies.  The slower, more thoughtful approach women take may have helped avert the crisis.

Judy Gizinski, president/CEO of Palm Bay Hospital, an industry with a traditionally large female population, has an all-female executive team.  “Women make the majority of the health and medical decisions for the family.  As the new hospital was being designed, we made sure to get input from all levels of staff.  We were determined to be female and family-friendly.  In one debate between the design engineers and our nurses, the nurses won… much to the benefit of our patients.”  In talking further, she expressed concern about the growing number of patients who could not pay their bills.  She was not only concerned from a revenue perspective, but expressed a larger concern as to the community impact demonstrating, once again, the more thoughtful approach that is one of the natural strengths women bring to leadership positions.

Certainly, many organizations understand the value of their female employees.  However, some only get the message after it impacts their bottom line.  At a reception for the introduction of the Athena PowerLink® program for women entrepreneurs in Orlando, Ed Baxa, general partner of Foley & Lardner LLP, said they had a wake-up call when they realized they were losing many talented women attorneys.  “With over 50{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of our new law school hires being female, we were losing their intellectual firepower after the fourth or fifth year.”  Baxa said, they recognized the need to be vigilant about career paths for their female colleagues, providing them access to challenging work and involving them in relationship-building with clients and potential clients.  “We need to be ‘intentional’ about this process as good intentions are too frequently swallowed by old social patterns if specific structures are not put in place.”  The firm has appointed a full-time diversity partner and increased focus on mentoring.  They are also developing user-friendly, flex-time scheduling and accountability for improved diversity at all levels of management as the starting points for addressing this important issue.

Listen up, men… paying attention to women clearly pays off.

Women: An Economic Force

  • Women buy 81{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of all products and services
  • They make 81{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of all retail purchases
  • Women control 80{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of household spending
  • They make up 47{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of investors
  • They buy 75{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of all over-the-counter medications
  • They make up 40{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of all business travelers
  • Women influence 85{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of all automobile purchases
  • They own 66{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of all home-based businesses

Source: 2004 Wow! Quick Facts Book – United States Census Bureau