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9 ways companies can get more women into leadership

What can companies do to be more diverse—to get more women and minorities into leadership? Turns out there’s a lot, and the answers came from the women and men executives at  Seneca Women’s Fast Forward Women’s Leadership Forum at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The Forum was co-hosted by the NYSE’s new Board Advisory Council, which was created to address the crucial need for diversity on company boards.
Some of the great advice:

1. Make women visible: “I wanted boys and girls to see that women can do this job confidently,” said Katie Couric, explaining why, in 2006, she took the groundbreaking job as first female solo anchor on an TV evening newscast. Couric’s comment came during her onstage conversation with Seneca’s Melanne Verveer. Couric, who recently launched Katie Couric Media, is cheering on Norah O’Donnell, who takes the CBS evening anchor post in July. And the fact that a woman, Susan Zirinsky, now heads the CBS news division, is also crucial, said Couric. Women “set the tone,” Couric said. “They are more supportive. They understand each other more.”

2. Re-define “leadership”: Women’s leadership may not look exactly like men’s and that’s fine, said Carolyn Tastad, Group President, North America, for P&G, during a panel moderated by Seneca’s Kim Azzarelli. “We have to make room for a much broader definition of leadership.”

3. Company culture is a terrain—be prepared to navigate it: For progress to occur, company culture has to change, said Julie Gebauer, Global Head of Human Capital and Benefits at Willis Towers Watson. “If you’re walking down the path and there’s a rock face in front of you, you need a strategy that involves ropes.”

4. Celebrate the game-changers of the pastStacey Cunningham, first woman president of the New York Stock Exchange, talked about the inspiration she gets thinking about Muriel Siebert, who was the first woman to own a seat on the NYSE.

5. Remember the men: If women are to succeed, men need to be able to mentor them, said Rick Goings, former chairman and CEO of Tupperware. “You can’t do this if you are not engaged in their life or engaged in their career.”

6. Use advertising to shift the narrativeAllison Tummon Kamphuis, P&G’s Global Gender Equality Leader, observed that advertising plays a huge role. When viewers see different groups represented in un-stereotyped ways, she said in a panel led by Seneca’s Sharon Bowen, “it creates a new normal of what equality looks like.”

7. Look at your supply chain: Visibility is also an issue in American manufacturing said Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO of WEConnect International, which supports women-owned businesses. “Women make almost all the purchasing decisions,” she said, yet they are “literally invisible in corporate supplier chains.”

8. Leverage women’s unique leadership qualities: “Communication is leadership,” said Melissa Reiff, CEO of The Container Store Group, who added another of her rules: “A work environment has to be motivating, fun, positive…and it works! People don’t leave.”

9. Encourage personal growth: “You have to have a place where people can develop to their full potential,” said Susan Story, CEO of American Water, in an onstage conversation with  Betty Liu, Executive Vice Chairman of the NYSE. Ask: “Is this what they need? What do they need?”

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