Hiring women is smart business. According to research from McKinsey & Company, published in January 2018, gender diversity on executive teams is strongly correlated with profitability and value creation. The study also reveals that the executive teams of outperforming companies have more women in line roles (typically revenue generating) than in staff roles.
Yet, gender inequality continues to be a reality in the workplace, in politics, and in the entertainment industry. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report 2017, based on research conducted by LinkedIn, estimates that it will take 217 years to achieve gender parity. LinkedIn’s Senior Director, Public Policy, Sue Duke states, “Our research found that women represent fewer than 50 percent of leaders in every industry analyzed — and in some fields, such as energy and mining or manufacturing, the representation of women is far lower, with women holding fewer than 20 percent of leadership positions.”
Advancing women and leadership are topics about which I am passionate. I believe that hiring women is smart business. I write, speak, and create programs for organizations all over the world that address issues of diversity. So when I learn about a company that is actively working to bridge the gender gap and promotes women in leadership positions–I can hardly contain my excitement. Recently, I had a chance to meet with three women from the Miller Heiman Group who have been elevated to C-suite positions. Miller Herman is a global organization with 63 locations across the world.
What happens when a company appoints women in C-suite roles to lead the business into a new age of sales and service?
The Miller Heiman Group has made a significant investment in gender diversity and equality by recently promoting/hiring three executives to the C-Suite. Why is it so significant? Because promoting these women breaks the glass ceiling in a traditionally male-dominated industry. “This isn’t about checking boxes for diversity; it’s about creating a stronger, more competitive business today and driving innovation for the future of the sales industry tomorrow,” they state.
I met with Allen Mueller, chief revenue officer (CRO), Dana Hamerschlag, chief product officer (CPO), and Aimee Schuster, chief marketing officer (CMO) to discuss their work in driving sales and success at the company. I asked each of them how they view their leadership roles. I wanted to understand how they see women as leaders, and how women’s strengths contribute to the company’s global sales, marketing, and product development.
Allen Mueller was promoted to CRO in December 2017 to lead Miller Heiman Group’s global growth strategy after a successful tenure as executive director, North America. Mueller has a unique perspective: “Women make successful leaders because they are socialized to empathize with others and listen first. Men often try to solve the “problem” quickly – jumping to a solution before understanding all the root-cause issues. Women are hard-wired to see the big picture and can thus react to the complexity of sales today by nurturing customers and listening to what say and don’t say,” she stated.
Mueller also made a point about managing teams internally, likening leadership to motherhood. She described the parallels between motherhood and leadership as both including the need to be available, disciplined, consistent, and to be both firm and nurturing at the same time.
Dana Hamerschlag, CPO, was hired in March of 2017 and leads the global product strategy and roadmap. She is driving an agile development approach, which includes an intense focus on responding to market feedback and building innovative cloud-based analytics. She talked about the changing face of the buyer and the challenge of adapting sales processes to meet the needs of diverse buyers. “How we behave needs to be different,” she said. “It’s not the football locker room anymore. We’re at a special moment in time. People are speaking up more, and when the tone and culture are offensive or not inclusive, that becomes a distraction.” Hamerschlag described working to create a culture of direct feedback, focusing on the way we engage buyers of all genders, speaking out against inappropriate behavior, and checking in with people to confirm whether the culture is supporting their ability to do great work as essential components of her role as a leader.
Aimee Schuster, CMO, brings two decades of marketing experience, with the last ten years spent working in Chicago’s technology scene. She founded and sold her tech company; deciding to take this job, in large part, because of the team and commitment to diversity. “I’m working with amazing women in this leadership team,” Schuster stated. “I’m joining forces with sales and product development to create a new marketing structure for the future,” she added. “We all demonstrate through our regular workday the importance of diversity, and we act as role models for the changing landscape.”
In today’s world, gender plays a role in the pace of change.
Miller Heiman Group describes these three women as crucial leaders in its aggressive transformation plans for 2018–and beyond. In our discussions, all three of these women emphasized the need to leverage the strengths both genders bring to the workplace.
And, to accelerate the company’s technology offerings and bolster its ability to help businesses build world-class sales and service organizations, these women have set out to modernize Miller Heiman Group’s sales methodology and its iconic Blue Sheet for the digital age–within the next six months. I’m betting they will be hugely successful.
How can your organization recruit and retain top female talent?
Hiring women is smart business. Wondering how your company can attract more women in top management? Here are three tips:
1. Create a culture of open and constructive feedback.
2. Invite women leaders to review and revamp processes and systems.
3. Acknowledge the unique qualities both genders bring to the workplace.
Does your company need help with gender diversity? Your leadership may need to develop more awareness of how women and men can best collaborate. Coaching and facilitated discussions are essential parts of this process. Contact me for more information.
A version of this post originally published on Inc.com.