Women in Leadership Summit Provides A Way Forward for Gender Equality

By Claude Werder, Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

Diversity and inclusion used to be considered an “HR issue,” viewed with disdain in some circles.

But D&I is now hot. Almost every organization I meet with wants to talk about it. Employers realize the value and need for a diverse workforce – in terms of race, gender, education, experience, skills, competencies and more – as organizations struggle to adapt to constant change in technology and the global economy.

D&I is now considered a business driver by almost 70% of organizations, according to new Brandon Hall Group research, and 80% of employers believe they have diverse and inclusive work environments.

That sounds great, but organizations with that point of view must think gender equality in leadership doesn’t count when evaluating inclusive work environments. Because the data on women in leadership is brutal, according to our research:

  • 14% of organizations have a woman as CEO
  • 6% of organizations have an even split of men and women in C-suite executive positions.
  • 68% of women say unconscious bias prevents them from getting more top leadership roles.

The huge gap between the perception of inclusion and the reality of gender inequality in leadership creates an urgent need for new solutions. That’s why Brandon Hall Group created A Way Forward, a multi-pronged campaign to help organizations advance more women into senior leadership roles.

The third annual Women in Leadership Summit is coming up May 1-2 in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and the agenda is filled with insightful sessions and opportunities for leaders – both men and women – to collaborate in forging new ideas to advance more women leaders into senior roles.

It’s well-established that women in corporate leadership is good for business. For example, corporations that meet or exceed 30% female executives experience a 35% increase in profitability.

Organizations that don’t advance women into senior leadership fail to:

  • Live the values of diversity and inclusion that the majority say they embrace.
  • Meet their obligations to shareholders, employees, and customers to improve business performance.
  • Understand the business implications of excluding women from top leadership in an increasingly transparent hiring market where a company’s blind spots are quickly exposed on social media.

How can organizations disrupt the status quo to move closer to gender equality in senior leadership positions? It requires a combination of dedicated leadership on inclusion, culture and mindset change, targeted development on many levels, and more inclusive recruiting and hiring practices.

The Women in Leadership Summit will tackle all those issues and you’ll also hear great success stories from global organizations, including Bank of America. Its approach to advancing women in leadership transcended traditional development programs and became an ecosystem designed around growing and supporting women leaders.

Brandon Hall Group advises global businesses on all areas of human capital management, but this is more than business for us. This is a cause we care deeply about, from Chief Operating Officer Rachel Cooke, who founded the program, to our entire team.

Please join us at the WIL Summit 2019 and help create A Way Forward for talented women leaders. The collaboration does not end with the summit – we have a growing network and resources focused specifically on women in technology leadership.

I hope to see you in Fort Lauderdale.

Claude Werder, Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

Claude Werder is Brandon Hall Group’s Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst. He focuses on Leadership Development and Talent Management. Brandon Hall Group is a leading research and analyst firm with Practices in Learning & Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition and Workforce Management/Core HR.


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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.