On Wednesday, February 22nd, our Grand Auditorium welcomed an INSEAD Alumni Association initiative – “Leading Together” – in partnership with McKinsey & Company and Nova School of Business & Economics (Nova SBE). The aim was to promote gender balance in business leadership, as well as to understand its importance in a growing global economy through an index reflecting the average of female and male representation in top leadership positions of all PSI-20 companies.
The tone of the evening was set by our Dean Daniel Traça and Sadia Khan, the President of the INSEAD Alumni Association. Being Pakistani, from a culture that still fails to recognize women and men as equals, she believes that the only way forward is for both genders to tackle this issue together. The CEO should be a role model and provide an example.
Afterwards followed a presentation of the research paper Achieving gender balance in leadership: why and how?, by Maria João Ribeirinho, from McKinsey & Company. In Portugal, where only 6 % of CEOs are women. The objective of this work was not focused on justice, nor ethics as the issue was approached from an economics point of view. Can companies benefit from seeing more women leading their boards?
This research found correlation between diversified leadership teams and financial performance as well as economic advantages such as increases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Different perspectives and leadership styles promote better decisions and more creativity while creating long-term value for the companies.
Although a lot of women enter companies right after they graduate, they don’t progress in their careers as much as men, and the relative number of women keeps diminishing as we climb the corporate pyramid.
Portugal is well below the EU average, and we were left with four recommendations to fight this imbalance: “ensure top-level management”, pay attention to the “pipeline’s leakage points” through mentoring, “improve lifestyle in high responsibility positions” with flexible timetables, and “promote advocacy and corporate collaboration”, along with government initiatives.
The discussion continued with a panel moderated by SIC Noticias’ Bernardo Ferrão, with guests António Mexia, CEO of EDP, Ana Marques, Executive Board Member at NOS, Isabel Vaz, CEO of Luz Saúde, Pedro Rebelo de Sousa, President of the General Council of the Portuguese Institute of Corporate Governance, and Sofia Tenreiro, General Manager at Cisco Portugal. Highlights were the “happiness factor” in women’s workplace (low, due to position), the importance of a meritocratic system and the change in mentalities. It was especially emphasized that although there is positive discrimination in the initial recruitment phases, it is harder to ensure women occupy higher positions. It is also important to note that equality is a long term fight, in which the measures we take today will only show results in the future. The consensus was that, in the words of António Mexia, “diversity makes us more intelligent and equips us for the future.”
At the end of the evening, the best-ranked company in the index, Sonae, was received an award.
To learn more about the initiative and the index, please go to https://leadingtogether.org.
*This article was written by Nova Women in Business Club. The Women in Business Club aims at providing the women of Nova SSBE with strong skills and the experience needed to excel in their careers. They address the specific challenges that women face through various stages of their career and celebrate the successes of women in business. Thank you for your contribution.