It should come as no surprise that leadership opportunities for women in media are sorely lacking, with women accounting for only 25 percent of industry executives, according to AdWeek. The number of women running media companies has even gone down from where it was several years ago, says AdAge.
Here’s what we know from an organizational development perspective: Workforce diversity—especially gender diversity—ultimately produces greater results, as an article in MIT News explains. This should be intuitive: “Women represent a huge portion of our audience,” says Callie Wheeler, manager of product marketing for Flywheel. “It is not only right and fair to include them, it makes good business sense.”
It’s also highly practical. Research by McKinsey & Company suggests that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, and for every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rose by 3.5 percent for companies in the U.K. Adds veteran media consultant Charlene Weisler, “From my experience, when women are in an executive position there is more collaboration. People feel their opinions are heard and considered.”
That’s not to say that increasing the presence of women in media will be a smooth process. There can be a painful period of adjustment when diversifying any workforce, as detailed in a research paper from the Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies—during this period, productivity and morale will decrease. But that should not be a deterrent. Every change management initiative ever undertaken has followed the same pattern. Things get worse before they get better…but if managed well, they always gets better.
When it comes to increasing gender diversity, here are some things to keep in mind.
1. It Starts at the Top
We’ve outgrown the practice of putting woman in sub-senior executive roles as a measure of gender diversity—more than a handful of women have already risen to the top. “Putting women into leadership roles will foster change in all directions. Sometimes we put a woman just shy of a leadership role, and call it progress without much progress,” explains industry writer Melanie Brown.
That’s not to say that a company can’t embrace gender diversity if a man holds the top spot. But there does have to be a serious commitment to such change. McKinsey reports that although more than 75 percent of CEOs include gender equality on their list of top ten business priorities, gender outcomes across larger companies remain stagnant.
2. Diversity at All Levels
In order for women to rise through the ranks, there has to be a pipeline. A lack of female executives has partially to do with a lack of options—McKinsey reports men are promoted 30 percent faster! As a result, there are not enough women to choose from. Part of the responsibility falls on the human resources department, which must ensure there’s a diverse field of candidates. But women must also advocate for themselves, negotiate for promotions and raises, and demand feedback from their superiors regarding their work and what they need to do to advance. Don’t wait for opportunity to come to you—be proactive about it.
3. Support Each Other
The Washington Post reported that when women working in the Obama White House grew frustrated that their voices were being ignored, they used a strategy called “amplification” to force the men in the room to recognize their contributions. After a key point is made by a woman, the other women in the room repeat the point in their responses, crediting the original speaker. This process enables women to be heard by supporting each other. Women in any organization can employ the same tactic.