2019: The Year of the Female Executive

By Robin Toft, founder and CEO of Toft Group Executive Search

I believe that 2019 will be the year of the female executive! Women are the key to bridging the diversity gap in the workplace. There have been questions about the wisdom of predominantly focusing on hiring and promoting women, and not focusing on other diverse groups; but when you really think about it, women are already a vastly diverse population. By hiring more women, we will be able to expand diversity beyond gender and encompass age, sexual orientation and ethnicity as well.

In a time when workplace diversity initiatives are struggling, Toft Group is committed to building a more diverse, representative workforce. We truly believe that hiring more women is the bridge to diversity. More than 40 percent of candidates we placed in 2018 are women and our goal is to raise that number in 2019.

While I applaud the recent passing of the board seat bill in California to increase the number of women in the boardroom, I wish this kind of common-sense progress didn’t have to be legislated. Executives need to focus on hiring outside of their networks to encompass a more diverse talent pool. The vast majority of corporate directors rely upon word of mouth and personal networking to identify the candidate pool for a new board member, according to a National Association of Corporate Directors survey. It’s no surprise then that these candidate pools are mostly comprised of men because (1) most boards are already staffed by men and their networks tend to be their peers (also men) and (2) public companies typically seek public company experience – where the majority of these experienced executives tend to be – you get it – men.

But hiring women at the executive and board levels isn’t just about checking boxes for diversity; it’s about creating a stronger, more competitive workforce. According to research from McKinsey & Company, published in January 2018, gender diversity on executive teams is correlated with both profitability and value creation.

Female leaders are not only seen as more compassionate and empathetic than their male counterparts, they also scored higher than men in a study conducted at the BI Norwegian Business School that measured personality traits of managers: work motivation and organizational commitment. The study concluded that women are better suited for leadership than their male colleagues when it comes to clarity, innovation, and support.

In 2019, I believe more life-science CEOs will recognize the industry’s and their own failings in making diversity a priority, and will not rest on limited approaches to recruiting talent. They’ll also recognize and embrace the competitive advantages of making diversity a priority in the workplace. I believe we’ll see companies implement new, creative strategies to hiring and retaining women and other marginalized groups.

2019 will be the year of the female executive and I am very much looking forward to the rise of women in the workplace and all the business benefits that stem from it.