2006 Women Worth Watching
Ilene H. Lang, President, Catalyst Inc, Introduces the 2006 Women Worth Watching.
Recently, I asked the CEO of a Fortune 500 company what he thought was the most important factor enabling the United States to stay ahead in this increasingly competitive, global business environment. I expected a long and complicated response. Instead, he answered in just one word: Women. For this CEO, the answer is that simple. He’s right.
In today’s competitive marketplace, women represent a vital talent pool—one that smart companies know they cannot ignore. Women in senior leadership positions bring a diversity of thought, perspective and expertise. They even bring enhanced financial performance, as Catalyst’s recent study of Fortune 500 companies revealed. The study found that companies with the greatest representation of women in senior management financially outperformed those with the least, with a 35 percent greater return on equity and a 34 percent better total return to shareholders. Indeed, the answer is women!
But most importantly, more women in senior leadership positions bring… more women in senior leadership positions! It is for this reason in particular that I’m delighted to celebrate Profiles in Diversity Journal’s 5th annual Women Worth Watching issue.
The women in these pages are truly worth watching. Their stories are inspirational, their achievements extraordinary. As that CEO would attest, these women lead us into the 21st-century global marketplace. These women show us the way. They demonstrate what can be achieved when companies look to gender diversity not as a nice thing to have, but as a strategic business imperative.
I am honored to introduce these Women Worth Watching, but I do look forward to the day when these women’s accomplishments are no less extraordinary, but far more commonplace. I fear that day is too far off. While the number of Fortune 500 CEOs has inched higher this year, we’re still building on a small base.
This year, Catalyst released its 10th- anniversary Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners in the Fortune 500. While the census revealed some progress in the percentage of women in top business leadership ranks, the rate of growth over the last decade has averaged 0.82 percentage points per year. At that rate, it could take 40 years for women to achieve parity with men in these top positions.
The women profiled in these pages aren’t willing to wait. And neither should we. Let’s celebrate these women—their outstanding accomplishments and their proven expertise. Let’s thank them for all they’ve achieved individually and all they make possible collectively. As leaders, as success stories, as mentors to future generations of women in the work- place, these individuals are, indeed, women to watch!
Ilene H. Lang is the President & CEO of Catalyst, the leading research and advisory organization working with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. Visit the Catalyst website at www.catalyst.org.