Women breaking new ground
There’s no question that significant barriers to women’s advancement remain intact. In fact, the head of UN Women pointed out that a girl born today will be an 81 year-old grandmother before she has the same chance as a man to become a CEO , and she will have to wait until she is 50 years old to have an equal chance to head a country. Yet, if you rewind a year, two years, pick a number in the past decade, doesn’t it feel like we’ve already had the very same conversations, quoting the very same bleak statistics, sharing the very same frustrations?While women clearly still face significant obstacles in achieving the gender parity we all hope for, this shouldn’t completely overshadow the huge strides women are making as leaders, innovators, and money-earners. In fact, we are breaking new ground in every industry and closing, albeit slowly, the infamous wage gap every year.
As we celebrate the 107th annual International Women’s Day this Sunday, March 8th, here are some examples of the notable progress women have made and how women are changing the face of power and wielding influence to positively impact all aspects of our globally-connected world.
1. Political Powerhouses
Women’s representation in Washington is at an all time high, with women making up nearly one fifth of the 114th Congress . Female lawmakers account for 20 seats in the U.S. Senate and a record 84 seats in the House, up from 80 during the last Congress. Notable newcomers include Elise Stefanik, who at age 30 was sworn in as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, as well as Mia Love, the first black female Republican elected to Congress.
What’s more, while the presence of women in the highest political positions remains anemic, 63% of Americans believe the country would be better governed if more women held elected office.
2. Billionaires On The Rise
2015 was a record-breaking year for women on Forbes annual ranking of the World’s Billionaires. In just three years, the number of female billionaires on the list has grown by 90%, with 197 women represented in this year’s ranking. Notable newcomers to the list include Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the blood testing company Theranos, who at the age of 31 has become the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. Folorunsho Alakija is a Nigerian businesswoman who has replaced Isabel dos Santos as the richest woman of Africa, and also is the richest black woman in the world. She is a business tycoon involved in the fashion, oil and printing industries. She is the group managing director of The Rose of Sharon Group which consists of The Rose of Sharon Prints & Promotions Limited and Digital Reality Prints Limited and the executive vice-chairman of Famfa Oil Limited. Alakija is ranked by Forbes as the richest woman in Nigeria with an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion and as of 2014, she is listed as the 96th most powerful woman in the world by
3. Entrepreneurs Trending
Women continue to be one of the most dynamic engines of economic growth in this country. The latest Open State of Women-Owned Business report estimated that there are now over 9 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. that generate over $1.4 trillion in revenue and 7.8 million jobs. Women are starting 1,200 new businesses a day, up 65% from the year prior, with four out of every ten new firms being launched by a female .
4. Driving The Bottom Line
Research has continued to show strong links between female representation on corporate boards and a company’s improved financial performance. A study by Credit Suisse found that companies with at least one female director outperformed all-male boards by an average of 5% since 2012, and were likely to pay higher dividends to shareholders.
More notably, the study found that women’s participation in senior management and C-level roles also appears to positively impact the bottom line. Senior teams that had 15% or more women demonstrated a return on equity of 14.7%, nearly 5% higher than those teams with fewer than 10% women. Similarly, an analysis by Bespoke Investment shows that over the past five years, women-led companies on the S&P 500 have posted a 19.5% stock gain versus a 14.9% uptick for those headed by male CEOs .
5. From the Playing Field To The Corner Office
It’s been more than 40 years since the passage of Title IX, and the benefits of having more young girls and women play competitive sports continues to extend far beyond their athletic endeavors. A recent study by EY of more than 400 female executives around the world found that the majority of women holding C-level positions played sports at an advanced university level (52%) , with 96% having played at some level during their school years. Of the senior management surveyed, 74% agreed that participating in sports could help accelerate women’s leadership and career potential, with nearly two thirds of the women citing their participation in sports as a contributing factor in their own career success. The top 3 leadership skills attributed to sports: motivational skills, the ability to see projects through completion, and team building.