A few days ago at the holiday party of a friend, her company gave out “goody bags” at the end. Nice gesture as a thank you to employees. Women’s bags were on the right. Men’s on the left. When she looked inside hers, she was happy to find three lotions. As she was leaving, she saw that the men were particularly happy: each of them, instead of lotion, had received a nice bottle of whiskey in his bag. Mild happiness turned immediately to bitterness. The next day more-or-less all of the women at the company were expressing their dissatisfaction. The men’s whiskey probably cost at least three times as much as their lotion. Inequality hurts. And this was salt in an already open wound: in a company with hundreds of employees, there is not one woman in an executive or even senior position. I would imagine that, if they had even one woman in a senior position who was aware of different gift bags, that woman could have easily pointed out that the company’s nice gesture could easily back-fire and create dissatisfaction when its intent had been to increase employee satisfaction.
To be honest, I do not entirely blame the bone-headed idea of different bags to women and different bags to men or even the disparity in gifts inside the bags. I can imagine myself doing something similarly idiotic. However, my company is very unlikely to make that mistake. Why? Because the co-owner of Summit Prep is a woman, and our Director of Operations is a woman as well. Thankfully, they would prevent me from similar idiocy. I am neither a fool nor sexist, so how could I have made a similar mistake? Because I do not know what I do not know. However, at least I am aware that I do not know what I do not know. I have learned through experience that I absolutely need the input of a diversity of perspectives in order to make good decisions. Part of the necessary diversity of any company is having both men and women in leadership roles. Without diversity, we far too quickly and easily see life only from our perspective and personal experience.
Having a female Co-Owner and Director of Operations has been invaluable for Summit Prep. In addition to both of them simply being phenomenal at what they do, they are attuned to aspects of business and people that I am less attuned to. For example, our families have a much better experience in our office because of their input. My focus is a quality product, but I now recognize how important sensory cues (décor, scents, amenities, etc) are for a good experience with our company. They also have much more insight than I would into the needs, wants, expectations, and thoughts of the moms of our students. Because we work as a team with families, it is necessary to have these invaluable insights. They have also brought a better work environment for our team through a larger emphasis on time-off and work-life balance. This has helped our team to stay happier and to do great work and has helped our company retain the best tutors.
Research backs-up our experience. A survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries found that having women in C-level positions, as opposed to no women in these positions, increased retention of both male and female employees and increased profitability by 15%.¹ Another study found that companies with strong female leadership generated a return on equity of 10.1% per year versus 7.1% per year for those without similar female leadership.² These tangible metrics are important, but our experience points to value even beyond what can be expressed in numbers.
Summit Prep is lucky to have a great team. One characteristic that enhances our team is the leadership roles of women in our organization.