The Time is Now

Creating a paradigm where women have equal power

by Sandra Beach Lin

Workplace issues that used to be saved for watercooler talk and private conversations—from sexual harassment to the pay gap—are now becoming headlines. The common thread through all these stories is the lack of powerwomen have in the workplace. We are at a real point of reckoning—we need to give women access to the same opportunities and status as their male colleagues. That’s where a new organization, Paradigm for Parity coalition, can help.

Paradigm for Parity was created when a group of women business leaders realized that our daughters were facing the same issues we faced early in our careers. Sadly, very little had changed for women in the workplace, and we knew that if we didn’t work to find a solution, nobody was going to do it for us. In the summer of 2015, we convened a group of women business leaders—including current and former board members, CEOs, and other executives—to talk through the problem and work toward a solution. With a resolve to change the status quo, Paradigm for Parity was formed. We acknowledged that a single silver bullet wouldn’t solve the problems women had faced for years. Fixing the power imbalance in corporate leadership requires a comprehensive approach. To that end, we created the Paradigm for Parity 5-Step Action Plan to give companies real, tangible actions that they can take to achieve real change in the workplace.

The five steps in our road map include minimizing or eliminating unconscious bias; significantly increasing the number of women in senior operating roles; measuring targets at every level and communicating progress and results regularly; basing career progress on business results and performance, not on presence; and identifying women of potential and giving them sponsors as well as mentors.
When concurrently implemented, these steps will enable companies to more effectively increase the number of women in leadership positions.

Getting more women—from all backgrounds—into the C-suite will create a more diverse company, and diverse companies perform better. According to McKinsey’s report Diversity Matters, “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry means” and “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective industry medians.” Bringing people of diverse experiences and backgrounds together to solve a problem minimizes “group think” and results in innovative and creative solutions, boosting company performance.

Paradigm for Parity launched about a year ago, and we are thrilled that 62 CEOs, representing companies including Accenture, Bank of America, and Walmart, have committed to follow the action plan and achieve gender parity in leadership levels by 2030. We are committed to supporting these companies as they work to reach their diversity and inclusivity goals. We are also hopeful that the successes of these companies will make it clear to the rest of the corporate world that parity isn’t just a nice thing to do—it’s a business imperative. DW

Sandra Beach Lin is a co-chair of Paradigm for Parity. She is a former president and CEO of Calisolar Inc. and board member of American Electric Power, Interface Biologics, PolyOne Corporation, and WESCO International.

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