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Doing Our Part: The importance of having women in leadership roles

Posted on 15 November 2018
Mixed race businesswoman giving a presentation at a meeting

By Jeff Phelps, CEO, iWorkGlobal

This article was originally published in Staffing Industry Analysts November Issue of Staffing Industry Review: Global Power 150 – Women in Staffing. To view the original publication, click here

October was National Women in Business month, which reminded me to reflect on the many women who have had an enormous impact on my career, leadership, and success. I think of the women who have inspired me, trained me, coached me, trusted me, forgiven me, allowed me to fail, and encouraged and even pushed me to try to succeed. I attribute much of my success to the women who gave me a chance and saw my potential.

I started my career in telecom, surrounded by hard-working, focused, smart, successful women who were willing to push me to the brink. And in the 1980s and ’90s, I saw many women advance to senior executive and officer-level positions.

I admired their ability to not only overcome unfair biases and prove themselves as capable, but also reach the highest levels of success and share their stories. The persistence and resilience they demonstrated is something I will never forget. I usually sum it up by saying that the fortitude required was more than I can fathom.

All that said, those “many” women I’ve encountered in my career actually account for a very small portion of the overall business leadership landscape.

How far have we come? According to Development Dimensions International, organizations with women in leadership roles are in the top 20% of firms in terms of financial performance. While there has been progress in narrowing the gap, the lack of women in leadership roles is still prevalent across all sectors. In the 1980s, not a single executive in the Fortune 100 was a woman. By 2001, 11% of Fortune 100 top executives were women. As of 2016, women still were just 18% of S&P 1500 board members.

In reviewing the statistics from LinkedIn’s 2017 report on leadership gaps, the staffing industry alone represents the most significant leadership gap across all sectors; 55% of the population is female, but only 40% of the leaders are women.

We still have a long way to go. In an effort to spur progress, some jurisdictions are considering mandating female placement in corporate leadership roles. California recently passed such a law: Publicly traded companies based in the state must have at least one female board member by the end of 2019. Those that fail to comply will face hefty fines. Current statistics indicate that over 375 California-based companies in the Russell 3000 stock index of large firms have all-male boards.

Are you doing your part to foster diversity?

Our role. At iWorkGlobal, we are focused on finding the right talent for our company, and that includes selecting from a very diverse pool. Yes, it is hard with unemployment at the lowest levels in the last five decades, but it is a commitment that my team, my board and my shareholders all believe in.

We use knowledge, experience and data in all we do. We are not going to ignore our need for great talent or the opportunity to leverage the skills and attributes accessible through the pursuit of diversity.

Our executive team is 57% female and 43% male; 70% of our management team is female; our company as a whole is 62% female. We will continue to focus on building a diverse team, by design, to enable us to be our most successful. Great teams — great programs — don’t just happen. It takes substantial commitment, planning and execution.

I was recruited into the staffing industry by an amazing woman, Laurie McGuinness. I met her through a community board. Now retired, she was an executive at Gary D. Nelson Associates, a firm she built in partnership with its founder. Laurie is and was a role model to me and so many others. So, in this Staffing Industry Review “Global Power 150 — Women in Staffing” issue and throughout the year, I acknowledge Laurie for helping shape me and my pursuit of diversity.

We regret to share that Laurie McGuinness passed away on Nov. 4, after this article went to press.