By Lynne Doughtie
Women today account for only 5.2 percent of the CEOs of S&P 500 companies and slightly more than 21 percent of their board seats.
Why have these percentages remained virtually unchanged over the past several years? It’s not due to a lack of desire. A recent KPMG study found that the majority of women aspire to hold top leadership and board roles.
Companies can and must do their part to help make that happen. It starts at the top. To make a lasting impact, leaders need to drive change that requires getting surgical. We have to do more than tell women they need sponsors. We have to identify high-potential women by name and strategically map them to those who can help them get to the next level. We have to set goals, measure them and hold leaders accountable.
For companies committed to advancing women in the workplace, there are many ways forward. Some smart strategies:
- Create new opportunities. One possibility: Rather than wait for a man to step down from the company’s board of directors in order to add a woman, increase the total number of board seats to accommodate a new female director.
- Encourage mentors and sponsorships. Encourage women — indeed, all employees — to find mentors and sponsors to help them develop their skills and build their career paths. Mentors can help employees think about their career growth, while sponsors can actually help make it happen.
- Provide a network of support. Advisory boards that enhance career opportunities for women and drive local and national initiatives that support, advance, retain and reward women make a difference. KPMG’s Network of Women drives our Women’s Advisory Board’s national programs at the local level, including activities focused on mentoring, networking, relationship building, leadership and skills development.
- Measure progress. Leaders can track and review various inclusion and diversity-specific key performance indicators, such as talent acquisition, attrition, career progression, and leadership and account team composition. This data can be used to help senior leaders and their direct reports set goals that will move the high-performing women they have identified by name forward.
- Invest in the future. Millennials represent the most educated generation of women in history. Investing in and connecting with this generation of talented women requires an understanding of their values, communicating the company’s purpose, and engaging them in the company’s social mission.
- Inspire others to aim high. Don’t be shy about sharing successes. At KPMG, we’re proud to be consistently recognized for our inclusive and diverse culture.
These are a few of the many ways to help advance and empower women in the workplace.Companies that take action to help female employees reach their full potential will be better and stronger for it.
Lynne Doughtie is Chairman and CEO of KPMG LLP. Connect with her on Twitter: @lynnedoughtie.