When it comes to workplace equity, it is critical that women with strong educational backgrounds have an equal opportunity to represent companies at the board and executive levels. Studies show that companies with women on their boards outperform those whose seats are filled solely by men. While the rate of leadership positions filled by women is not as high as it should be, significant progress is being made. I live in England, a country that recently mandated top companies to have 25 percent female board membership by 2015, which is a step in the right direction (although there’s a long way to go to achieve that ambitious target).
It is fundamental to use all of the talent available, not just part of it, and much of this talent comes from women with varying educational degrees. I work for a chairman and CEO who embraces women in leadership and throughout our company. One-third of Coca-Cola Enterprises’ Board of Directors (four out of 12) and one-third of the executive leadership team (two out of six) are women from diverse backgrounds, geographies, education levels, and areas of expertise. This encourages employees at all levels in the organization to embrace differences in thought, approach, and problem solving.
Along with their educational background, I believe mentorship opportunities for women can help increase the number of women in boardrooms. I am proud to be a mentee in the FTSE100 Cross-Company Mentoring Program in the UK, which builds professional relationships between female leaders and some of the leading chairmen and executives. When senior leaders invest the time and energy to help advance women, the development of their careers can be significantly impacted in a positive way.
There is hard work ahead to improve gender disparity, but I am hopeful and proud of the companies who are setting the bar high and offering opportunities that encourage the advancement of women in the workplace and boardroom. This is the moment to be more courageous and to make a change.