Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Stories about women flooded the media, many featuring companies that have dedicated cause-related programs addressing everything from women’s health, to education, to self esteem. Amazing, forward-thinking programs recognize that women play a critical link in many of our global issues, and when we lift them up, society follows. With a topic so widespread and complex, companies must do more than create external programs. They must also look within their own walls to sufficiently recognize and reward the contribution of women.
Unfortunately, the statistics indicate this is not always happening: Women are under-represented in leadership roles, yet organizations with the highest rate of women in board leadership can increase return on equity by as much as 53 percent. Women are still paid significantly less than men in the workforce, despite holding more bachelor’s degrees and graduating with higher GPAs.
A gap exists that can be closed. The work by companies to empower women is not yet done. Businesses with an external stance on women’s issues should also look inward, to determine a strategy to empower women within their own walls. Women have huge potential to impact the global economy, and companies have the opportunity to foster and benefit from this momentum, sparking change from within. Women’s empowerment is not just a social issue, but also an operational and business imperative.