Best Practice Forum on Engaging Men to Advance Women

Engaging men in the advancement of women is the new frontier for every company in America.

How can it be that in 2013, women currently hold just 10%-15% of the senior leadership (C-Suite) positions in corporate America?

And why haven’t we made more progress, given that women now represent 58% of our college graduates and hold 50% of middle-management positions – with 40% holding positions that include purchasing authority?

I could go on and on, listing the statistics. And we often do, especially when we celebrate the progress, influence and contribution women make to both our businesses and our society.

But, as someone who has spent much of her career in positions that focused on the advancement and inclusion of women, I am as perplexed and curious as you are when it comes to the reasons why female leadership at the senior levels of American companies has plateaued.

Yes, of course, there has been progress along the way; and, yes, today we have more female leaders than a generation ago, but only a very small portion is sitting at the top of organizations. And, to make matters worse, the conversations we are having about gender and work today are the very same conversations we were having when I was President Clinton’s advisor on women’s issues in the White House during the mid-1990s.

Talent is a key motivator right now, and, beyond equity and fairness, most CEOs agree that in today’s competitive global marketplace they must harness the top-tier talent in their midst to survive and remain competitive and profitable. They also know that women bring a very rich set of skills and attributes that are extremely beneficial. The female perspective often leads to wiser decisions, and the rich relationship skills that women leaders offer frequently result in happier employees and deeper client connections.

So, we may understand the “why,” but it’s increasingly clear that there’s a giant hole in the “how” – how to include, keep and advance women in organizations. Too often, what passes for gender efforts inside corporate America becomes a series of discussions in which women find themselves talking to women.

I know from my own experience that my goal was often to merely get sign-off, budget and resources from leadership to move my agenda on women forward within the organization. For many of us in this field, this has been a meaningful and productive strategy, but it hasn’t been woven into the fabric of the organization. And, on many occasions, a committed CEO, with the best of intentions, has gone away believing that this support, plus periodic face-time, was sufficient.

What we know for sure is that what got us here won’t get us there. The old saying is true: Insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results.

But to get a different result – to truly support, retain and promote women in the workplace – shouldn’t we be engaging men in the conversation as full partners? I believe the answer is yes; I believe that men are not the problem; and I believe that men are a key factor in the productive solution.

That’s why engaging men in the advancement of women is the new frontier for every company in America that wants to compete and grow in the 21st century. And that’s also why Bentley’s Center for Women and Business has developed this thought leadership gallery.

Visit the CWB website to read a distinguished and diverse group of influencers, experts and practitioners – CEOs, C-Suite leaders, cutting-edge consultants and academics – who offer their experiences, insights and wisdom on how men in positions of organizational power and influence can help advance women to create a more balanced business model for future success.

Our hope is that these distinctive contributions will mark the beginning of a robust shift in thinking and research on this topic, so that developing and promoting female leaders becomes a best practice across the corporate landscape.

To read a summary of the recent Best Practice Forum on Engaging Men in Women’s Advancement, visit the CWB website.

The New Frontier For Women in Leadership – Including Men
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