Today’s leaders need to exemplify humanity, authenticity and fierce resolve in taking organizations to new heights. As Intel’s Rachel Mushahwar told a room full of emerging leaders in connected retail recently: “If we want to go fast, we can go alone, but if we want to go far, we need to go together.”
Mushahwar’s quote encapsulated the theme of Intel and SAP’s Women in Leadership event I recently attended, which brought together executive women in retail for an opportunity to network, hear from industry experts and learn from their peers about the challenges and opportunities that come with their roles.
Lori Mitchell-Keller, EVP and GM SAP Consumer Industries, and Mushahwar, Global Director of Enabling for Retail, Hospitality, Consumer Packaged Goods, Intel Internet of Things Group, co-hosted the event.
“We believe that building women leaders and building our businesses are one in the same,” said Mushahwar. “Recent research from the Harvard Business Review shows that when there are three or more women on the board of directors over a five year period, the comps for that company are 84 percent higher.”
Yet, a 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Education showed that while more than 50 percent of college degrees, and close to 40 percent of MBAs are held by women, less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies employ female CEOs. Those numbers don’t compute for Intel, which is among a handful of global companies leading the way toward rapidly clearing barriers to female advancement and pay equity. Intel is also investing in technology education programs for women and girls, the Girls and Women in STEM program, and the Intel She Will Connect program, among others.
Creating a Culture of Collaboration
Key to Intel’s success is a culture that includes not only the women of Intel, but the men of Intel actively working to clear barriers; going all the way up to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. In 2015, Krzanich pledged that Intel’s diversity will reflect the thriving diversity of America by 2020, and Intel threw down a $300 million investment to back it up.
One need only attend any industry event where Intel has a presence to see the effectiveness of this pledge in action. In addition to Mushahwar, Intel Internet of Things Group’s Senior VP and GM Doug Davis is a recognized champion of women at Intel. Davis and many other men of Intel attended the event in a show of solidarity.
“Intel and SAP are very committed to continuing to advance women in leadership and women in the industry overall,” said Mitchell-Keller. “I think that if we look at what’s happened with women in leadership, particularly in retail leadership, we stayed at about 9 percent over the past decade. We continue to hover around a low 12 percent on U.S. boards, and we’re about 17 percent—a little bit better—on Fortune 500 boards. That’s a tiny amount compared to the amount of women who are involved in retail. So, we really need to continue to work together to get to know each other and continue to promote diversity both in leadership positions as well as on the boards.”
Characteristics of Great Leadership
Mitchell-Keller offered the group her insights into some of the characteristics that can help to move great leaders forward. “One key thing is authenticity. I think working with somebody who is truly authentic and genuine is so much easier than working with somebody that you don’t really know what their hidden agenda is,” she said.
“The other thing is what I’ll call fierce resolve. Whether you’re a guy or a girl, if you’re on a board or you’re in a leadership position, sometimes really stating your opinions and getting your ideas across is difficult,” Mitchell-Keller continued. “So, that resolve to really make sure that your opinions and your ideas are heard are so important for all of us, to continue to move up in our companies and into leadership.”
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