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Women in business: 5 new themes

September 29, 2016

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Stories on women in business are ripe for reporting. (Photo by "Unslash" via pixabay CCO Public Domain)
Stories on women in business are ripe for reporting. (Photo by "Unslash" via pixabay CCO Public Domain)

The recently released study by LeanIn.org regarding women in the workplace has ignited new discussions about inequality in business. New research shows that corporations must make better use of (and retain) the woman in their ranks in order to improve their bottom line. This blog outlines some of these findings and ways for you to weave the developments into your reporting on women in business.

Explore the fresh data

Catalyst, the nonprofit organization for womens advancement, provides business reporters with an ongoing source of information including this gem about women on boards. Catalyst found that companies with more women on boards experience higher financial performance. Additionally, more Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies are recognizing that core consumer data indicates the need to have more women in leadership positions. Consider the following numbers:

Investigate the Social Reasons for Increasing Women in Leadership Roles

New research from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh also shows intriguing reasons for increasing the number of women in leadership roles, and what gets in the way of women reaching their full capacity. Professor Anita Woolley at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business found that having more women in teams leads to an increase in collective intelligence in teams and organizations.

Investigate the social barriers

Additionally, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Carnegie Mellon completed research showing that women tend to say yes to more favors (i.e. non-promotable tasks) at work versus men, and these favors can interfere with the time needed for tasks leading to career advancement. The research also found both women (and men) tend to expect women to say yes to favors more than they do for men. Related research shows that while others don’t view men unfavorably when they decline non-promotional tasks (and in fact view them favorably when they say “yes”), the opposite occurs with women. In other research, Laurie Weingart, from the Tepper School, has also found differential effects (between men and women) of avoiding workplace conflicts. While traditionally, management directs employees to avoid conflict in the workplace, this approach works better for men than women who tend to feel emotionally exhausted and can reach burnout through unresolved workplace conflict.

Report on big changes within the larger corporations

Big news also comes from the bigger corporations. Deloitte made national news this month announcing its plans to offer a 16-week paid family leave for all employees for caregiving. Executives expect more financial services companies will follow. Announcements like these are helpful for business reporters because they show, not tell the readers that providing better work-life balance is a priority, and an effort towards retaining women executives. In May, Nike Inc. offered a similar policy for eight weeks of paid leave for caring for an elder or newborn. Growing numbers of large corporations are also creating foundations and charities as part of their business model to help women in business. For example, designer Tory Burch started the Tory Burch Foundation to help women entrepreneurs and their families via access to capital, research and digital resources. It’s fellowship program is now in its second year.

Show how we fit into the global picture

The U.S. remains the only advanced economy not mandating maternity leave for new mothers. This National Public Radio feature outlines the details. Deloitte and Nike Inc.’s moves are meant to help employees with new children in their households, as well as employees caring for aging parents or others with health emergencies. In your reporting, let your readers know how the U.S. compares with other countries when retaining and attracting women talent.

Reporter’s Takeaway

  • Include fresh data and any reporting on women advancement in business. Catalyst recently found for instance, companies with more women on boards also experience higher financial performance.
  • Be on the lookout for new research explaining why so few women make it to the C suite and make their way onto boards.
  • Follow the news from the larger corporations, like Nike Inc. and Deloitte, which issued this year extensive paid family leave for employees to watch and care for family members.


  • Debbi G McCullough

    Debbi Gardiner McCullough's an executive communications coach and expert helping leaders speak and write in ways that others want to listen. Her expertise ties to clear and compelling writing (how to get there) and helping those with a clunky, inacce...

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