Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive of PepsiCo, the US beverages group, has been urging the world’s biggest corporations to involve more women in management.
At the inaugural Wall Street Journal conference on women in the economy, held last week in Palm Beach, Florida, about 200 chief executives, academics and leaders from other walks of life – both male and female – identified priorities for business and US government in harnessing the talents of women in leadership positions.
“We have to insist that CEOs get a pipeline and a development plan in place,” Nooyi told the conference, saying that companies were not doing enough to ensure there were a sufficient number of women coming through the management layers below the C-suite. She added that a company’s employee base should reflect its customer base.
Nooyi, who occupies the number-one spot in the FT’s Top 50 Women in Global Business, also urged conference attendees to keep reinforcing the notion in their workplaces that “having women in the organisation enhances your ability to make the numbers”.
A number of proposals were discussed, including having a private panel of chief executives from large companies helping set targets, metrics and a scorecard to ensure change across corporate America.
Finally, five main priorities were agreed:
- profit and loss leadership: companies should establish explicit strategies to ensure women take positions involving some profit and loss responsibility;
- chief executive accountability: the chief executive should be held accountable for appointing women in top jobs, be required to track women’s promotions and ensure diverse shortlists of candidates for senior roles;
- promotion of potential: companies should identify their high-potential women early and have in place strategies to nurture and promote them via sponsorship and formal evaluation procedures;
- mentoring and sponsoring: there should be industry-wide programmes for mentoring, including tying sponsorship goals to pay and career advancement. These programmes should involve both men and women; and
- talent management: companies should be encouraged to recruit outside their usual channels and leverage diverse networks.
These priorities echo the findings of a number of research studies and surveys reported here previously. They point to an increasing consensus not just on the importance of gender diversity, but also on the strategies that are proven agents of change.