I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at the CBIZ MHM conference alongside three CBIZ female colleagues who were recently appointed to the Mayer Hoffman MacCann, P.C. Board of Directors. I was so inspired by these women and their stories, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on women in the boardroom – where we’ve been and where we’re headed.
The “token mentality”
In 2013, I discussed the “token mentality” as it relates to women on boards. At that time, companies were attempting to solve the problem of women in leadership roles by appointing one “token” female board member. Four years later, I’m happy to report my views have evolved. I believe much of corporate America has moved past the “token mentality,” in large part due to the raised awareness surrounding this issue. Through discussions and advocacy, including programs like CBIZ Women’s Advantage, corporations are much more intentional in developing and advancing female talent and recognizing the business case for gender diversity. So much so, companies can no longer ignore the contributions their senior women offer in leadership roles.
A seat at the table
While the ultimate goal is parity in the workplace, we must not lose sight of smaller victories along the way. If you are the only woman with a seat at the table, you surely know your qualifications and competency got you there! I’m sure most women can recall a time they were the only female in the room, in their position, at the table, etc. This experience in their careers was referenced by all three of the newly appointed MHM board members. I challenge every professional woman – whether she has the only seat at the table or not – that it is your obligation to bring your position, experience and advocacy to the boardroom. You are the voice of your female counterparts, so be confident and own it. Use your seat to help advance issues that are important, including creating an environment for other females to join you at that table in the future.
Strength in differences and diversity of thought
Too often I see companies and their leadership equate differences to weaknesses, when in reality there is great value and strength in those differences. Differences bring diversity, and diversity spurs new ways of thinking. Diversity of thought empowers a company or a board to be innovative and take smart risks. Focusing on our differences makes us stronger and definitely moves the needle forward.
We have come a long way since I first wrote about women on boards in 2013, but it doesn’t mean we are done. We must continue to advocate for women in business, including getting more women on boards. I am so proud that CBIZ is helping to drive this change and honored to see our three female MHM board members take their seat at the table. I look forward to the progress they, and women on boards everywhere, are making in the workplace and society.