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- Women executives at Fortune 500 organizations were more likely than their male counterparts to focus on customer relationships, which may lead to greater long-term financial performance, according to a blog that shared results from a forthcoming study by University of Texas researchers.
- The research, to be published in the Journal of Marketing, examined 389 Fortune 500 organizations over six years. Researchers said that female leaders were “especially valuable” to customer strategy at organizations with relatively stable operational environments, defined as those in which the C-suite has a high degree of control and in which women and marketers are “well represented” on company boards.
- Hiring more female executives may not always lead to better financial returns, the university said, but CEOs can find a gender balance in top leadership teams that “facilitates an appropriate strategic orientation for their companies.”
The University of Texas study is not the first to find a statistical correlation between the presence of women in corporate leadership and improved financial performance, but it does come at a time in which external forces have made it difficult for many women to maintain the career paths that could lead them to the C-suite.
The pandemic forced some 1 in 5 women to leave the workforce, according to a 2021 study by insurer Metlife, though the same study found that 63% had planned to return. But the impact of the pandemic on women’s careers is nuanced; a 2021 Gartner survey of women workers found that 65% of respondents said the pandemic made them rethink work’s place in their lives, while 70% of those with children said it changed how they viewed aspects of their life outside of work.
Adding to these nuances is the fact that leadership development opportunities have not been distributed equitably in many workplaces. A study last year of male and female professionals found that men were more likely to be both formally and informally assessed for enrollment in such programs than women. Conversely, women in the study were more likely than men to say they needed to self-advocate for their participation in leadership programs.
HR teams may need to work to bridge gaps between organizational statements and actions on diversity, equity and inclusion as part of addressing leadership diversity. A 2020 Mercer report found that while 81% of organizations said that D&I was important, women made up only 23% of executive-level positions among organizations surveyed.