April 18th, 2017

Mar 30, 2017, Studies are clear: Gender diversity in corporate leadership pays off in spades. In fact, the Harvard Business Review estimates that companies with women in 30 percent of senior leadership roles are 15 percent more profitable than peers without female leaders.

What’s more, McKinsey research found that simply eliminating the global gender pay gap could add $28 trillion to the world economy by 2025. The diversity of thought, experience and skill that women have to offer in the workplace can make a significant difference in a company’s culture and bottom line.

Yet here in Philadelphia, women hold just 14 percent of the board seats at our top 100 largest public companies. And just six of those companies have female CEOs, according to the latest “Women on Boards” report by the Forum of Executive Women and PwC.

We have tremendous opportunity to grow, but it won’t happen by accident. I believe that we all have a responsibility to empower the women in our organizations.

Here are four practical recommendations for companies and managers looking to invest more consciously in female leadership:

  • Lead by example and develop the next generation of female leaders. Your influence starts with hiring. Get involved in the recruitment process and encourage women to consider jobs that may have been less common for them in the past. Lead by example and be aware of how many women hold senior roles throughout your company. For example, in the UBS Pennsylvania Market, we are very proud to have 12 female financial advisors and 9 women on our 16-person management team. We continually talk about the many opportunities women have to succeed in the financial services business in an effort to bring more talented women into our profession.
  • Openly talk about challenges and rewards. Facilitate honest conversations about the decisions working women encounter, and share both your opportunities and sacrifices with your colleagues. Make a concerted effort to truly understand your employees’ personal and professional goals while expressing your own priorities with your manager. Being open about what we want and learning from other colleagues are the first steps to achieving a work/life balance that meets our goals. I am continually inspired by the women I work with, and have carefully watched how they have successfully balanced their careers, philanthropic endeavors and families.
  • Champion family policies. As leaders, we have the opportunity and privilege to influence company policies. Does your company offer formal mentorship programs? Diversity groups? Parental leave benefits and flexibility for child care? UBS research suggests that paid parental leave — rather than maternity leave — and access to child care can support women’s return to the workforce after they have children. There may be other creative ways your company can support employees’ personal and professional lives. For example, at UBS we recently launched a 20-week “Career Comeback” program, designed to help parents who have taken a few years off from the workforce transition back into full-time financial services work. These programs certainly require investment, but a corporate commitment to family will set your organization apart from the competition and allow women to participate in key professional development opportunities over the course of their career.
  • Be a connector. One of the most fun and rewarding things we can do in leadership is to be the connector to other people and resources. Help women in your organizations find opportunities to invest in the community and network with other professionals by volunteering or sitting on boards for causes they believe in. Introduce women to other successful women in your organization and keep the conversations about gender diversity and empowerment alive in your culture.

There are countless benefits to having balanced, diverse company leadership — impacting corporate values, recruitment, retention and even earnings. And it’s certainly encouraging to see that as a country, we are making progress. Women now account for almost half of students in advanced degree programs, including law, business and medicine, according to UBS CIO Wealth Management research.

Although we may be moving in the right direction, intentionality and awareness are critical to truly build strong and diverse leadership. It’s up to all of us to continue the momentum and invest in the next generation of leaders.

Emily Frenzel, Guest Columnist, director and branch manager of UBS Financial Services in Newtown.