There are a number of studies about why gender equality has translated very well in the classroom but has not yet made it to the upper echelons of the corporate jungle. More than thirty years since women became part of the mainstream workplace, balance has not yet been achieved. And while I refuse to acknowledge that it will take another 30 years for that change to come about, for me, for my team, and my company, I choose to focus on what I can do to push it forward.
As a woman who sits on the senior management team of a global Fortune 100 company, and as a mother of two boys who I hope will value partnership and equality, this is a very personal journey, one that began in university. It’s there that I learned to challenge myself to embrace conflict and change. I grew and learned most when I was out of my comfort zone. That expansion of my horizons came in the form of claiming a seat at the table when I was one of very few women even in the room or taking courses that truly challenged my background and expertise. Ultimately it’s where I achieved great success.
And as I reached farther out of my comfort zone during my career, I realized that change was not a frightening concept for me; to the contrary, I embrace it and seek it out. The challenges I gave myself at university became a way of life in my career.
Companies that capitalize on change will naturally take the lead in market opportunities. It’s no different for companies looking to attract and retain women leaders. Companies (and countries) with higher proportions of women leaders are often the most successful. I’m not suggesting that women are better leaders, but simply that balance of roles between the genders creates a more positive outcome.
I’m fortunate that American Express recognizes the benefits that women in senior leadership roles can bring and currently leads the industry with women representing one-third of its top executives. From technological and digital innovations to flexible work arrangements, the company understands the need for change and therefore, I think, understands the needs of its diverse employee base. Finding a match between corporate and personal philosophies is not common or easy. However, when they do come together, I can actually see balance coming within our grasp.