How do women in the workplace positively affect the bottom line?

Despite workplace evolution, pay and opportunity gaps persist between men and women. To understand this issue better, why it matters and how accounting methods could help identify it, Double Take recently welcomed Lara Abrash, chair of Deloitte US, the largest professional services organisation in the United States with more than 170,000 professionals.

According to Abrash, it is becoming increasingly recognised that women bring a unique ability to empathise and monitor a team’s wellbeing, both inside and outside of the workplace.

Leaders that are women have the ability to relate to the entire workforce. They have the ability to lead other women, to bring out the very best … I will just say, 30 years of experience, women demonstrate leadership capabilities very early on, but they do not think of themselves as leaders. They are typically the maternal nurturers within organisations. They have the ability to really understand how their teams are doing, how the environment around them is feeling, and to try to validate and navigate … they create much better leaders ultimately.

Lara Abrash, Chair of Deloitte US

To determine if a given company seriously considers diversity, Abrash looks for evidence of an impact or transparency report, which creates public awareness of this topic. These reports often contain important details about key stakeholders who are held accountable for driving equity within an organisation, and if the compensation of the chief executive officer (CEO), board or other senior executives is tied to achieving this goal.

I would look for that report. If they don’t have a report, that would for sure make me wonder. As the accountant says, numbers do not lie. That will tell you a lot of information around how many people are sitting at the top of the house of that company. How many people are in leadership roles? What is the retention of women and women of colour in those organisations and how are they investing in change?

Lara Abrash

In Abrash’s view, public disclosures also reveal telling statistics, like the percentage of women on boards and in top management positions. Another illuminating factor, she mentions, is the degree to which a company allows senior executives other than the CEO to speak on behalf of the company.

But ultimately, I would be looking for an investor relations call that brings the whole C-suite in, and it feels like together they are joining in on an answer, as opposed to the one CEO who’s sitting up in front and telling you all the reasons you should invest in their company.

Lara Abrash

In Abrash’s opinion, she credits companies that are honest and transparent about the degree of pay gap between their male and female employees. Conversely, she is more critical of companies that consistently point to one woman in a leadership role when gender diversity comes into question. She believes this is a potential sign of tokenism at work.

One of the things that I try to focus on as a leader at our firm is making it clear that we are not just focused on equity because it makes us feel good, but really talking about why this is important. It’s important to the firm and our ability to be successful and generate a high performing business. And it is the right thing to do.

Lara Abrash

To hear more, subscribe to ‘Double Take’ on your podcast app of choice or view the Women on the rise episode page to listen in your browser.        


Raphael J. Lewis

Raphael J. Lewis

Head of specialist research

Jack Encarnacao

Jack Encarnacao

Research analyst, investigative, Specialist Research team

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