Marissa Mayer and Corporate America’s Bottom-line

Marissa Mayer and Corporate America’s Bottom-line

marissa mayerOnly thirteen publically-traded companies are led by women CEOs. And in the world of Fortune 1000s, Marissa Mayer’s appointment as the CEO of Yahoo is more than a blip on the business wire. This former Google executive can be a model for a corporate America that has yet to reach gender equity. But businesses need the right tools and a keen appreciation for just how valuable women leaders are to the bottom line.

Despite the high-profile appointment of Mayer, most executive suites of large companies remain very male. A recent UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders found “that women still occupy fewer than one in 10 of the top posts at the 400 largest public companies headquartered in California — a rate that has improved by just 0.2 percent annually. Mayer herself has recognized the problem, and was the recipient of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women's Human Rights Awards for her leadership in addressing inequity in women's access to the top levels in business.

Corporations need to know that businesses that include women at the helm – and promote equity all the way through the organization – are simply more effective and profitable. Consider this:

• Research by Catalyst, McKinsey & Company shows that companies with more women in leadership roles outperform those with fewer women.

• A business where women and men are equitably represented at all levels better reflects its stakeholders and the marketplace it serves.

• Investments in female talent yield large economic and social returns, namely increased productivity and higher education levels for children.

So how does corporate American get there from here? The San Francisco Department on the Status of Women worked with corporate partners Deloitte, McKesson, and Symantec to develop a Gender Equality Business Assessment Tool. Companies use the tool to survey their success in promoting policies that support women in the workplace. Here’s a preview.

1) Leadership: It’s trickle down all the way. Make gender equality a part of overall corporate strategy, including mission, values and strategic goals. Include a leadership statement on gender equality goals by the CEO in public materials such as the website, annual report, and sustainability report.

2) Pay Equity: Pay women fairly. The pay equity gap is a solvable problem, and results in attracting and keeping women in the workplace. Conduct, on a regular basis, an audit of job classifications, compensation policies, and total benefits packages analysis for both bias and an adverse impact on women.

3) Work-Life Balance: Not just for moms. Mayer has publically discussed her commitment to supporting flexibility for herself and her employees. Create and promote a menu of flexible work options for employees focused on scheduling, location, leave, and workload that meet the needs of employees and the organization.

The good news is that many of our nation’s largest companies are paying attention. San Francisco’s Gender Equality Principles Initiative brings companies together for practical standards, best practices, and strategic conversations.

Mayer’s appointment offers a big lesson to corporate America. Question is, will they pass the test? 


Ann Lehman is Policy Director at the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, where she has been responsible for implementing a human rights treaty, gender budgeting and analysis, authored a report on work-life options, benchmarks on girls in San Francisco,and created the sexual harassment FAQ. Ann helped launch the Gender Equality Principles Lnitiative (GEP), a workplace tool for organizations.