2011 Women Worth Watching

Ilene H. Lang, President and CEO of Catalyst, Introduces the 2011 Women Worth Watching.

Profiles in Diversity Journal – 2011 Women Worth Watching

If Not Now, When?

As Catalyst’s president and CEO, it’s my job to expand opportunities for women and business. Catalyst works on behalf of women, but we do not work for women alone; what we do also benefits men, families, businesses, and communities. We strengthen organizations by empowering people of every gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation to achieve their full potential and demonstrate the value of inclusion. And we understand how vital women’s progress is to the global economy.

When corporate leaders explain that women will surely advance if we just give it time, I ask the famous question: “If not now, when?” Because Catalyst’s latest statistics on women in business reveal that change hasn’t just been slow to come — it’s been practically nonexistent. According to our research, women held just 0.9 percent more board seats in 2010 than they did in 2007 (15.7% vs. 14.8%) and just 0.9 percent more executive officer positions in 2010 than in 2009 (14.4% vs. 13.5%). We cannot take even miniscule increases for granted; in several instances, women’s representation has remained the same or declined.

Change this slow is in no one’s interest. In order to counter this discouraging data, Profiles in Diversity Journal continues to identify and promote companies that create opportunities for women leaders. Catalyst research shows that, on average, companies with more women in senior executive positions tend to financially outperform those with fewer. What can smart companies do to ensure that talented women advance?

Our research shows that traditional mentoring, including career advice and guidance, is not as effective as sponsorship. Sponsorship occurs when high-level executives advocate for specific high-performing women, often behind closed doors. According to Sponsoring Women to Success, the latest in Catalyst’s groundbreaking series of reports on women and sponsorship, effective sponsorship is crucial to accelerating a woman’s career, from getting her trusted by senior-level executives to being considered for her company’s top jobs. Organizations must create an environ- ment where sponsorship thrives, educating senior executives about its importance to the leadership pipeline and to their own effectiveness as developers of talent.

I commend Profiles in Diversity Journal for its ten years of advocacy on behalf of women leaders, and I’m thrilled to introduce you to the inspiring women featured in PDJ’s 10th Annual Women Worth Watching issue. Over the last decade, PDJ has featured nearly 1,000 women leaders in its influential pages. These women are leading the way to a brighter future — one in which every company recognizes the value of inclusion and every talented person is given equal opportunity to advance. As our global workforce expands and diversifies, smart business leaders have an unparalleled opportunity to tap into a fast-growing pool of talent: women like those featured here. I wholeheartedly encourage them to seize it.

Ilene H. Lang

Ilene H. Lang

Ilene H. Lang is the President & CEO of Catalyst, the leading research and advisory organization working with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. Visit the Catalyst website at www.catalyst.org.