Recognition of achievement in the business world gives hope to anyone who wants to get ahead, and a report in Philly Purge recognizes Susan McGalla’s efforts to open doors for women leaders. Even though statistics from global management consulting firm McKinsey show that it is good business to hire women for leadership positions in companies, men continue to hold a significant majority of the top corporate positions whose job titles start with “Chief.”
Looking at the Facts
McKinsey’s research shows a clear correlation between companies that endorse diversity in the workplace and those that do not. Gender-diverse corporations have a 15 percent chance to out-perform businesses that do not have such a policy. The statistics are even more impressive for companies with ethnically-diverse employee policies. For them, the percentage of likelihood to outperform others increases to 35.
The Catalyst list ranks the number of women CEOs at S&P 500 companies at a little less than 6 percent or 29 out of 500. General Motors, Hershey, Pepsi, Staples and Lockheed Martin are among the companies who have women in the top corporate positions. Discouraging as the statistics are to people who see value in corporate diversity, they do not deter McGalla from her goal. The challenge that she faces is a difficult one with the statistics from McKinsey confirming that only 16 percent of executive team members are women. As bad as that statistic is, it is better than the 6 percent in Brazil or the 12 percent in the United Kingdom.
Examining Failed Practices
McGalla recognizes that the nearly impenetrable glass ceiling prevents women from reaching the highest positions in business or government. The networking and initiatives that women have built for mutual support are plentiful, she maintains. They provide benefits through opportunities to develop strategies and contacts with like-minded women in the same industry. Through the initiatives, women may acquire information about business trends that provide valuable insights.
One of the motivations of the networking and support groups is to offer support for advancing women to the top corporate positions, according to McGalla. By demonstrating that women are as competent in executive positions as men, women have hoped that promotions were in line for them. The backup helps women demonstrate their belief in the abilities of their sisters, and the effort often allows women to “stand out in the business world.” However, the methods have not succeeded in helping change the corporate environment for lets women advance.
Facing the Realities
McGalla’s assessment of the problem with the initiatives is that they have not addressed what she sees as the underlying issue that prevents change from occurring. While she acknowledges the importance of women receiving support from other women, the results of having it do not substantiate its effectiveness. The fact remains that women hold only a fraction of senior roles globally. She contends that the difference between the genders in leadership positions that currently exists is not diminishing. Her conclusion, based on the clear evidence, is that the real solution is still missing.
Benefiting from Experience
As the daughter of a football coach and a sister to two brothers, McGalla admits that she did not receive any breaks as a youngster because “she was a girl.” While not admitting that the same is likely true of many other women who have not experienced her success in business, she knows that the situation is unfair. At American Eagle Outfitters, she reached the highest position to become its president. Now with the Steelers, she is a vice president, a position that is familiar to most women who can see the top position through the glass ceiling but cannot reach it.
Identifying the Missing Piece
With a willingness to look at the reasons that the support groups and initiatives that women have used as a potential path to advancement, McGalla candidly assesses them as ineffective. She does, however, offer an alternative to the gender discrimination that dominates business. Her recommendation focuses on “sponsorship opportunities.” An experienced decision-making executive can serve as a sponsor for women who see a path to the corner office but need help from an “insider” to get there.
The purpose of sponsorship is to “help create opportunities,” as she envisions it. The role of the sponsor is a familiar one to anyone who has joined a club or organized a golf tournament, and it carries a significant amount of influence and prestige. The endorsement of a respected person lends an aura of acceptance that is likely not available any other way. McGalla’s concept of its practice in business allows a sponsor to recommend a woman for leading a project or working on “important assignments.”
By serving as an advocate, a sponsor lends credibility that establishes a woman as deserving and capable. The role includes continuing to “stand in her corner” as a female accepts assignments and performs duties within a company. Susan McGalla believes that the sponsorship approach can enable other women to advance to higher positions in organizations as she did.
Susan McGalla recognizes the importance of motivating sponsors with incentives that encourage them to “invest in women leaders.” She believes that doing so helps male executives actively participate in helping women find administrative roles as well. Her concept may enable companies to change promotion policies. By implementing it, corporations may succeed in changing the statistics that prove that breaking down gender- and ethnic-related barriers gives them a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Understanding an Achiever’s Motivation
In a rough and tumble family that included two siblings who gave her no quarter, she learned to get along with them as well as her girlfriends. The negotiating skills that she learned as a child appear as a centerpiece of her job as the Vice President of Business Strategy and Creative Development for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team.
Her parents taught her to work hard and to present “my good ideas with confidence” no matter who was listening. A frequent speaker who receives many requests to tell women how to get ahead, she has an idea that may make a difference. Her awareness of what women want to hear inspires her to tell them what they need to know as well. She offers the benefit of her knowledge and experience to them as professionals and not as women. On her way to the position that she holds with the Steelers, she had to meet the challenges that other women can use as instructive guidance.
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