Female leadership tied to strong financial performance, better for environment

Though corporate executive roles are primarily held by men, women executives bring strong, valuable leadership qualities to the table that men often lack — vision and the ability to convey it convincingly to others, according to The Guardian.

Companies with a larger female presence on their boards tend to give more attention to environmental and social issues, according to Kellie McElhaney, PhD, a professor at University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business' Center for Responsible Business. Companies whose executive teams have an even balance of men and women are more likely to invest in renewable power, low-carbon products and energy efficiency, according to her study of more than 1,500 global corporations.

Another study by Credit Suisse revealed a positive correlation between female leadership and financial performance. Between 2005 and 2013, companies with at least two women on their boards returned a compound of 3.7 percent each year over those companies with no women on the board. However, female participation in top management roles (CEO or directors reporting to the CEO) in the end of 2013 was just 12.9 percent.

Reasons for gender imbalance in executive roles vary across countries and industries, but there are a few commonalities that pop up, according to the report, such as cultural assumptions (such as assuming a woman will leave the company after having a baby), workplace biases and policy impediments (such as little or no paternity leave).

According to The Guardian, getting more women in senior executive roles will require various policy responses, such as greater family-friendly norms, gender-balanced parental leave and stronger enforcement against wage discrimination. Some countries, including Norway, Spain, Belgium and France have begun experimenting with mandated quotas for female board participation. However, with quotas comes the fear of tokenism — or putting women on the board in superficial positions merely to fulfill quotas — according to the report.

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