Anthea Stratigos – February 21, 2017
While we keep hearing about diversity, inclusion, and the need for greater representation at the top in corporations, our industry’s leadership, by far, is not putting its money where its mouth is.
We took some heat after Outsell’s 10th Anniversary Signature Event this past October, because we didn’t have more women on the podium. You see, our plan for that special event, which we executed, was to invite the CEOs of the industry’s largest companies from each sector. As people asked me where the women were, I had to say, “I can influence our industry’s leadership, but I am not responsible for it.” You see, it was nearly impossible to find women who were CEOs of our industry’s largest companies. In fact, I could count three, one who declined to speak, one whose company was in such turmoil we knew it wasn’t right time to extend an invitation (but will this year now that the tumult has passed), and one who we invited and said yes. Shout out to Clare Hart.
But there was Clare, on the podium, with Wilma and I, all of us clearly out numbered. Our speakers were great, and they were inspiring, but they were largely white males of a certain age. This week, it was great to see Dow Jones appoint Katie Vanneck-Smith as President & Chief Customer Officer and Anna Sedgley as COO & CFO alongside a newly created role filled by Kristin Heitmann, who is now Chief Transformation Officer. Bravo!
Also this week, Bloomberg interviewed Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL Inc., who stated he aspires to have the top 1000 roles in his firm filled 50% by women by 2020. Wow. BHAG for sure, and it’s great that Tim and AOL are leading the way. We need that kind of leadership, especially when you look closer to home at the land of tech, and see so few women in meaningful roles.
I hear day in and day out that our industry’s biggest lament is talent. Finding talent, retaining talent, and retooling talent. What “location, location, location” is to real estate, “talent, talent, talent” is to media and information. Yet, it strikes me as profoundly incongruent that for most senior leadership positions in the c-suite — we’ve largely eliminated 50% of the population from being present. How bad is it? If you want to see predominantly white men between 45 and 60, look no further than the executive team of the industry’s leading companies. On a whim, I went out to 15 websites this weekend. I googled ABC Company, Executive Team, or Leadership team and found my way to their corporate websites. The companies I chose to look at were the top 10 in our financial performance rankings — Moody’s, Verisk, Equifax, MSCI, FactSet, S&P Global, Fair Isaac, Wolters Kluwer, Gartner, and CEB (now being acquired by Gartner.)
Only one of them, Wolters Kluwer, has a CEO who is female. Only two of them (Wolters Kluwer and S&P) had five women on the executive team, with WKS being the highest penetration. The rest had one or two women on their executive team, and in most cases this was out of 9 to 13 total executives. Oh my. Some of these women were in the obligatory Chief of Admin or Head of Talent role. We had a few CIOs, CFOs, and presidents of lines of business, but men, by and large, outnumbered women.
Thinking to myself, things must be better in the land of consumer media, I went out and surveyed the websites of the top five consumer magazine companies according to SpyGlass Intelligence. Dismal. Worse. No this can’t be?! Time, Inc. — 4 of 14; Hearst — 1 of 13; Condé Nast — one of five; Meredith — zero; American Media — zero. Null. Zip. Nada. Again, no women as CEOs. I thought, maybe it’s better in France, and I looked up Lagardère, a well-known media conglomerate — 0 out of 10. A quick look at Bertelsmann showed 5 of 16 on the Group Management Committee. So, maybe Angela Merkel is wearing off … I don’t know.
All I know is that this looks so strange and so wrong. We are wasting talent, if we are not making sure our executive suite mirrors the markets we serve and the world we live in. Up until last year, and for many years, I had more women on Outsell’s exec team than men. This past year, that changed, and I miss the mix. Women and men of all races, religions, and ages bring different points of view. They add to the richness of a culture and the creativity that it breeds. When I recruit, I will continue to look equally at “may the best talent win” and make sure that the corner offices of our company are blended and balanced. I can do that for Outsell, but I can’t do it for our industry’s largest companies. It’s time the rest of the industry joins Tim. Fifty percent by 2020 anyone? We’ll measure the outcomes. Let’s see who steps up.