Business Forum: For long-term growth, invest in women

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Nearly 50 percent of the U.S. workforce is female, and women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing business segment in the United States. Women account for more than 50 percent of all stock ownership in the United States; control more than 60 percent of all personal wealth; and account for 85 percent of consumer purchases.

These statistics, among others, demonstrate the growing influence of women in both the workplace and marketplace. They are a driving force of the U.S. economy and cannot be overlooked by companies that want to remain competitive and position themselves for long-term growth.

Women’s perspectives, skills and experiences are imperative to an organization’s ability to serve an increasingly diverse customer base. As more women buy homes, open businesses and control a growing percentage of the country’s investable assets, it is incredibly important for organizations to have strong female representation at all levels, including in senior management and executive-level positions.

Similarly, these perspectives — along with education, leadership abilities and an understanding of female consumers — make women ideal candidates for board memberships. According to a 2012 study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, over the past six years, the share prices of companies with at least one woman on their board of directors outperformed those of companies without female board representation.

Credit Suisse found that companies with female board members exhibit less volatility than those without female board members.

To increase female representation on U.S. boards of directors, companies need to move more women into leadership roles. They must provide mentorship, training and other resources to encourage women to continue moving through the leadership pipeline.

PNC Financial Services, for example, offers a women’s leadership development program that helps women cultivate their leadership and influencing capabilities and a series of development programs that provide recent graduates with an opportunity to gain experience in one of 10 businesses. In addition, Women Connect, an employee business resource group, provides a forum where women can discuss their concerns and engage in professional development opportunities.

From a marketplace perspective, women’s purchasing power represents a significant business opportunity for companies that offer consumer products and services. Therefore, companies should invest more in researching women’s behaviors — challenges, priorities and how they make decisions — to earn their trust and advocacy, and as a result, their business.

PNC’s commitment to women in business is just one example of this notion. There are more than 1,400 PNC-Certified Women’s Business Advocates, employees who have taken voluntary research-based training to gain a deeper understanding of women business owners’ thought processes and behaviors when it comes to making decisions and building relationships.

As a result, both male and female certified employees build stronger client relationships and better deliver business and wealth management solutions, enabling companies owned or run by women to contribute more fully to the rebounding U.S. economy.

As women’s influence on the U.S. economy continues to grow, it is more important than ever for companies to invest in this segment from both a workplace and marketplace perspective.


Marsha Jones is chief diversity officer of The PNC Financial Services Group.

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