Good, Giving and Game, Yet Women Still Not Tapped For The Top – FanTrust in the Huffington Post
Help me out, here.
When will digital media shareholders, investors and boards look at the case for female leadership on its merits and stop with the painful status quo contortions required to keep women out of top roles?
What’s it going to take when, faced with hard data, these decision makers persist in making limp calls?
The facts have been in for a while: women dominate the Internet, represent the lion’s share of consumer spending, and deliver better value to shareholders when at the corporate helm.
Connecting the dots has never been easier!
From cave paintings to Facebook posts, women continue to shape the media landscape. Today, we are the digital evangelists; 92 percent of us pass along information about online deals or finds to others. We own digital fan activity, representing a whopping 71 percent. When it comes to the fastest growing video game sector, social gaming, we make up three-quarters of the audience. And, boy, do we buy: online and off, women account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases.
Yet women hold only three percent of the clout positions in mainstream media. More generally, among communications companies in the Fortune 500, we represent just 15 percent of top executives and only 12 percent of board directors.
To shape-shift the media business model, look no further than the obvious. Women are the forest and the trees, what can’t you see?
In the famous “invisible gorilla” experiment Harvard psychologists proved that as many as 50 percent of viewers will miss something as obvious as a gorilla in the midst of a small group of people. But women in media represent a universe of dancing gorillas somehow overlooked by people on safari looking specifically for gorillas. Willful blindness appears to trump the implausible.
Things might change as more women get into the media investment game. When we met as speakers recently at theInternational Women’s Digital Media Summit, Arianna Huffington told our group that Laurie David was her first investor in The Huffington Post. She also said, “If Lehman Brothers was ‘Lehman Brothers & Sisters’ they would still be around today.”
Obviously, women don’t provide immunity. As Nell Minow, board member of the corporate watchdog research group GovernanceMetrics International reminds me, “There were women on the boards of Enron, Lehman Brothers, etc. etc.”
Since corporations are people too, it’s no surprise that perceptive investors see them as gendered. Serial angel investor Esther Dyson, whose media investments have included Flickr and del.icio.us, both sold to Yahoo!, says that she looks for “character traits (in the companies I invest in) that tend to be overrepresented in women: good listening skills, self-awareness, good at motivating and developing people, common sense.”
The Internet itself may help more women eventually get ahead, says Nanon de Gaspe Beaubien-Matrick, president of Beehive Holdings, an investment company that funds women-led digital businesses that deliver to a female customer base. “The Internet allows flexibility, it allows people to work from home, to participate [at the executive level] in ways we didn’t have before.” Face time may no longer be the benchmark, she adds, performance will.
But performance measures can cut both ways. How about the board director scorecard? Companies that are doing amazingly well on the backs of hundreds of millions of female consumers, such as Facebook and Zynga, have zero female board members. Since zero is easy to count, many women — from consumers to senior staff and from the mathematically challenged to the whizzes of finance — may take their business elsewhere.
Companies with zero female board members are not just slapping our faces, they persist in slapping the face of logic. That’s because companies with significant female board membership are widely known to outperform their counterparts. Specifically, when comparing Fortune 500 companies with the highest female board representation to the lowest, those with more women on board are the financial superstars. Across the board, these companies deliver better returns: on equity, on sales and on invested capital.
Ultimately, what’s bad for women is bad for business. Let’s shake things up nicely with some reciprocity.
C’mon, guys. What’s up? We are, in order: Good (women deliver bottom line results); Giving (we put out to buy your stuff); and Game (as players and as leaders). So why are you still just not that into us?
Follow Catherine Warren on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fantrust