My mother was the personification of Mad Men’s Peggy Olson, having worked at FCB in the 1960s, so I had a shining example of a strong woman working hard in a challenging corporate environment. Back then, deep cultural changes were setting in, women were entering the workforce in droves and yet gender disparities were prevalent. Today, headlines reflect those same issues and it raises the question: Have we made any progress?
It doesn’t seem like we’ve come all that far, considering the signs that were held at the recent Women’s March on Washington. Some of my favorites:
I Will Not Go Quietly Back To The 1950s
Can’t Believe We Still Have to Protest Women’s Rights
You Think I Am Mad, You Should See My Mom
My Arms Are Tired From Holding This Sign Since the 60s
Historically, the government has had heavy involvement in progressing equality for women. Think about The Equal Credit Act, The Family Medical Leave Act, and so many others. What would have happened without legislative support? What will the government do now and in the near future to help? If the answer is “not much,” what do our citizens plan on doing, independently or as businesses?
Gandhi once said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I think we can all agree that creating equality is the right thing to do and we should take steps to make our voices heard, whether it’s carrying a sign, writing your local government or starting a petition. But, what if it were also a smart business decision?
It’s interesting to note that women control an estimated 85 percent of purchasing choices, yet over 91 percent of them feel that marketers don’t understand them. It’s imperative for this reason to diversify to properly comprehend and communicate to consumers. And I believe the advertising industry is exemplifying this by demanding transformation. Clients are now insisting that equality is a priority for its day-to-day business partnerships. Companies like General Mills and HP are requiring diverse teams from their agencies as the minimum cost of entry to manage their accounts.
Furthermore, women-run businesses are thriving around the world. According to the EY Global Job Creation Survey 2016, a survey of 2,673 entrepreneurs globally, female entrepreneurs were found to be 19 percent more likely to be running billion-dollar companies than men, and due to their executive positions, women are leading in the job-creation stakes. As a result, those companies are anticipating an average growth rate of 10.9 percent in the next year.
Business revenue among women-owned firms have also increased by 35 percent since 2007, compared to 27 percent among all U.S. firms—thus at a rate that is 30 percent higher than the national average.
If we know that creating opportunities for women is the smart thing to do and the right thing to do, we need to explore what corporate America’s role should be.
• Do companies, which have spent the past two decades working toward gender equality, retreat or continue to put programs forward to move the cause along?
• Will existing laws change HR policy in America and around the world?
In order for us to progress, we need to commit to gender diversity and advancement of women in our workforce. Women who have risen in the ranks based on their hard work, leadership and skill are counting on us. The long-term future for many organizations is female not by mandate but by merit.
We must further strive to empower women to speak up, lean in and take control of their work life. It is imperative to our future that we support flexible work policies, offer generous maternity and paternity leave, develop training initiatives and take on causes that support families, children and the end of human trafficking.
We still have work to do and we need to keep women’s rights top of mind and not on the back burner. I fear apathy will set in and rather than continuing to strive for the shattering of the glass ceiling, we will focus our attentions elsewhere. But I refuse to give up. Naysayers may push hard. But we must push harder. Shout louder. Act faster. We have all fought long and hard to create an inclusive, fair and diverse world for us to live in. Our work is far from over, however. In some ways, it has just begun.
David Krupp is CEO, North America, for WPP’s Kinetic Worldwide.