Women Leadership – Diversity as a Strategic Advantage

Azra Jabeen

CFO at Fortive

Learning Objectives

In a world defined by change, disruption and complexity - diversity offers a strategic advantage especially at the leadership level. Diverse experiences and perspectives are indispensable to the challenges we face today. Do we have enough diversity today in the Finance world? If not, what is the root cause? What steps can we take as individuals, companies and society to empower and elevate women?

Key Takeaways:

  • Why is gender equality important?

  • Why are women underrepresented in leadership positions?

  • Is it glass ceiling or is it self imposed?

  • Concrete steps we can take as individuals, companies and society

"Anyone who's hungry and has shared with you that she wants to go for the higher rung in the ladder, these are the people who are asking for your advocacy and asking for your coaching. So please make yourself available for that. "

Azra Jabeen

CFO at Fortive


Hello, my name is Azra Jabeen and I’m here today, having the privilege of talking about gender diversity in our workplace. In fact, a gender equal society means where no gender exists. In my opinion, there’s a lot we all can do, either as individual contributors, as managers, as colleagues, as companies, etc. So, here I’m trying to share in some of the thoughts, what could be done, proactively by all of us, whether in hiring decisions, retention decisions, or development, lock activities, etc. So bear with me for a moment, and I’m going to start sharing that is if I can figure out how to do this.

Okay, so hopefully, you can see, like, introduce myself. My name is Azra Jabeen, and I am the platform CFO of Fortive Corporation. I used to be employed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise until April of this year, once again, another organization, which has done an awful lot in terms of diversity, inclusion, and, you know, similar activities. So here, I won’t bore you by reading all the details or the statistics that are out here. But some of the ones I would highlight are, you know, women comprising more than half of the labor force today, more women have college degrees compared to men, and of course, make less money, that is women in us, the disparity is lot more in the rest of the world. But within us women earn 80 cents to every dollar men. And then, of course, women of color in us on 63 cents to every dollar a man pants. I mean, obviously, this is something we could do a lot better. Also want to highlight the fact that you know, most men that is Glassdoor survey found that 70% of the men believe that men and women are paid equally for equal work. Whereas predominantly women 83% of the women believe that there is a gender pay gap. So obviously there is a misalignment between between the perceptions of men and women. So now we talk about now that we have phrased in the problem as to what it is, we obviously know that women are not represented equally, nor are they paid if we want to find out if talent is limited to one group. Right here, I’m just picking up you know, some of the statistics coming in from the investment banking firms, etc. Talking about how women make up more than half of the accounting grads, as you saw, even the general college educated statistics are the same. And then, of course, about how few senior positions are held by women. And this is the latest and the greatest that this data was compiled in 2018. So a lot of progress has been made. And yet we have less than 17% of senior positions in the investment banking world, being women.

Okay, once again, I want to do a slide through Sorry, my apologies about the sheer numbers over here. But obviously, we’re all finance people. So it makes sense that we gravitate towards statistics and numbers, etc. kind of thing. So look at the huge progress we have made from 2006 to 2018. In 2016 6.8% of all the CFOs were female, whereas in 2018 it’s 12.5%. In fact, just anecdotally everywhere I’m seeing around me we’re seeing more and more CFO so you know if you take a look at 2020 if that data was available, obviously we would be a lot better than what we see here. ethnically diverse when it comes into it once again progress from 3.3% in 2006 to 6.4% ethnically diverse CFOs once again, a huge achievement lot of progress, but yet we have miles to go Now the question is, why are women underrepresented? Right? So it could be any number of things that but we have picked up the top few. First and foremost is the, you know, subconscious bias, call it blind spots, call it whatever you may. But we all have inherent and biases about things. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell, author whom I hugely admire, had used the example of classical music in his book called blink. And in this, he demonstrated or rather used to study, a highly touted study in a 1970s and 1980s. And this was about classical music in the Eastern European world, which was all men, right. So in 70s, and 80s, they started experimenting, erecting a screen between the auditioner and the examiners, if that’s the right word. And so accordingly, you could not make a sound, you could not wear a heel, you know, nothing to give away, the person behind the screen, per se. And dramatically, the number of women on the artistas, orchestras started jumping, big time. And it was because instead of paying attention to what people look like, how they were dressed, what kind of instrument they were carrying, etc, I mean, quality of the instrument that they were carrying people that listening with the years, and therefore it did not matter whether a person was a man or a woman. And this is something that these kind of blind biases we all carry, and our own way, let’s say, for example, you have one person, you know, who walks into an interview, wearing shorts and a T shirt, you know, immediately The thing is, this guy is not so serious, will not do the job. But they could have been any number of reasons behind why he walked in the way he did. And I could go on and on. But it’s about acknowledging that you, me, everyone has a subconscious bias about something or the other, we all have it. And it’s about acknowledging it and combating it, that would be the key. Then when it comes into the second point here, I would be the first one to confess, I have done this shying away from competing for plumber roles, we kind of women expect people to know what you’re capable of, and you being targeted for a particular in a promotion, or, you know, expanding expansion role or whatever there is to it. But we hesitate in raising our our hands up. And it is said, and I again, I bear testimony to that, that is if you have a list of 10 criterias that you need in order to get a job. And if I have nine out of the 10, I’m going to hesitate thinking that I don’t have the 10th one, right, compared to say the rest of the world who would be like, okay, you know, I’m 910 there, I can do those job and therefore raising your hand. So that part of it kind of comes into play as well.

You know, also about the gender norms that is about people, women kind of thinking, Oh, you know, I have a child, I have to stay at home, take care of the baby. And you know, the world expects me to do X, Y, and Z. And accordingly we fall prey to this societal stereotype as well. I’m also in when it comes into STEM, science, technology, engineering, maths, etc. It’s a known fact that, you know, girls rarely sign up for those kind of graduate courses. And that’s why less than 30% are in the quantitative disciplines. This is something that can be corrected in so many different ways. Well, well, that’s a topic for later. And then also fear of penalisation we like to be women. And then when I say we, I’m talking about us as women, we engage in less misconduct, mostly because, you know, we are trailblazers, and at many levels, especially at the leadership level, and so accordingly, we try to be very careful, but then when we get caught it, you know, it’s I don’t have, you know, data to back me up, but anecdotally, women get penalized more as well.

The question is, is it all glass ceiling, some of its self imposed? I think it is. And the latter, you know, the fear of failure. Family Matters for the year. Taking care of an older family member taking care of your kids, whatever it is, it could be lack of confidence in ourselves, when it comes into that we roughly talked about, you know, the nine out of 10 criteria being met. And yet we feeling that, you know, we’re not we don’t pass muster imposter syndrome, I spoken to a lot of women leaders across the board, and everyone says, Well, I feel scared that I’m going to be found out or that I’m not good enough for this particular role or something else. But there is this

always there,

which kind of stops us from reaching the top of the ladder. The most important thing, as far as I’m concerned, is the lack of role models in our worlds. And a women specially want role models to look up to, you want to understand women’s journeys, how they meet up to the position that they are in, and so that they can emulate those role models. And unfortunately, either they’re not that many or not enough, are, you know, sharing the experiences in pulling other women up, or any kind of, you know, giving them the confidence that is required, I have to say, through LinkedIn, when I made myself available as a mentor, I could not believe every single person who reached up to me wanted to know my journey, wanted to know, you know, how I progressed in my career, etc, and accordingly told me that, you know, they lacked role models like me, although I have to say out ways to go, you know, there’s so many things that I could do better. I’m also work in progress. But overall, I’m sharing what I received from, from the people I’ve spoken with. Okay. So here, we’re talking about, you know, you know, it is obvious, why is gender equality important, you must have read the zillion a number of of articles, bhp Wall Street Journal, or in Forbes or in fortune, or whatever there is to it. I just want to highlight a few here that is, you know, gender diversity, once again, generating better results. And, and there is a lot out there here as to how, you know, having at least two or three women board directors improves the return on equity of publicly traded companies about how innovation increases by more than, you know, 30%, where, you know, where the diversity numbers are much more than ordinary, etc, etc. So, that’s why I say it’s a given, right? The the thing that scares us, sorry, stares at me, is women earning only 77 cents to the dollar when compared to men. And this is a global number, not the US number. Okay, because you saw in the previous light, the number was just us alone. And here across the world, if we, you know, ease out these barriers, that means an addition of 100 and $60 trillion added to the income potential, and this comes in straight from the World Bank. Imagine what it would do to the world economy, imagine the trickle effect associated with that. Right? So it’s just astounding, that, you know, we have a number as big as this that definitely could contribute to the world to the economy where it comes into that. And then, of course, with that, it’ll change the entire economies, everything around the world.


what can we do, right? What can we, as individuals, companies, and society do to empower, elevate women, coach, mentor, hire, retain, you know, you name all the webs and what could we do? Right? So first, let’s start with what we women can do. You. First and foremost, you have to have a good idea about what you want. Self Awareness. Once you have that, go after it. Go after it with passion. Go after it with determination. Go after it with plan. Second thing, keep yourself informed of the latest technology. trends, you know, macro trends, micro trends that are all around us, that will impact your own role and finance function. Generally, you also get to hear a lot about the technologies, risks and opportunities. So your CIOs, the IT people, you partner within the IT organization should be your best best friends in order to get a good understanding. But otherwise, you know, just keeping yourself abreast of all the developments that should help you a lot. We all know finance is not a silo function, right? So accordingly, we work very closely with it with HR with operations with the technology teams, etc, etc. And I can’t stress how important it is to collaborate across all these organizations and building internal relationships, that helps you being a better finance person, but also helps you in kind of, you know, going in for the plum job for the plum role that you want. Okay? Very important to have a champion and a mentor to help you climb the corporate ladder, you could even add in a coach to that. But don’t expect people just to be a rah, rah person for you, right? constantly tell you how great you are, it should be a person who will help identify not just your strengths, but also your weaknesses, in terms of going to the next level that you want to also join any outside networking groups per se, when it comes into that not only does it boost your confidence, etc. But it also, you know, keeps you abreast of the developments keeps you informed about any opportunities that can become available, etc, etc. Okay. Better reputation for yourself a consensus builder, I feel that, you know, I have been surprised across the board by how many women have been playing the role of a consensus builder, creating Win Win situations, empowering people to do the jobs, you can do this. And this is something that goes a long way. And also be open to the ideas of others, right? I mean, by just being open, you know, trying to be a constant learner, giving, including everyone and the ideas, that helps us a lot, especially if you’re doing it amongst one another. but also across the board. I think these are things that are very, very important. What can men do? Well, of course, our men friends can do a lot as well, proactively help women succeed, right? It could be because you’re part of a conversation where a position has become available, and therefore, you know, you float the name of, of, for particular, female colleagues who could be right for the job, or in working through helping them through what needs to be done in order to help them succeed. This could be in your role as a manager, it could be in your role as a coach, as a mentor, you know, you name it. Okay. Hand in hand goes in with identification of women who are ready for the next challenge. Of course, we all have our, you know, succession planning, we have a lot of things. But it could also be women who would not traditionally be tapped for that particular role, but you see the potential on them, identify them, name them, sponsor them, that would be something great to do.

Talk to women,

talk to people in your team, talk to your colleagues, be an advocate for them, okay? Push them harder than they are pushing themselves. Now, this is a delicate balance. Some women may like it, some women may not like it when it comes into that. But anyone who’s hungry, who has shared with you that she wants to, you know, go for the higher rung in the ladder per se. These are the people who are asking for your advocacy, asking for your coaching, etc. So please make yourself available for that. Ask women what they need and be ready to jump in and help. Right? Women tend to not be very direct when they are asking for help. So you have to read between the lines, you have to look, you know what exactly they want. So a little bit of interpretive work is needed in order to help them out some of the things it’s not supposed to be an exhaustive list, just some of the things that you could do in order to help your women colleagues, your your wives, your sisters, your daughters, etc. What can companies do? Right? Companies finding the best person for the job. And that goes without saying that’s what we all do, right? But many times, we look for a very obvious fit. So talk to people who are normally not considered for a particular role, right? It’s not just about the prior history, but it’s about the potential, it’s about both hard and soft skills, what they bring to the table, right. And so, accordingly, you know, finding in that person who, who could be the best fit in the future or older, the current role may not be the same, you know, that would be something to do. Having more females in senior exec


and this will inspire a get to the top attitude, have those female exec leaders,

you know,

share their life journeys, you know, share their struggles, etc, when it comes into it, as these will be the role models that we all look for when it comes into it. So there has to be a lot of share going on in here for the entry level and the mid level female employees to be driven to climb up the ladder,

engage female

employer colleagues, and then this is something which we have done, like, you know, Roundtable, mentoring circles, we have had, like coffee talks it you know, we have had women directors kind of being brought to speak to predominantly female colleagues, but not that it is limited to them, it’s limited to the entire organization. But it is important to engage in whichever forum you think is necessary to find out what they need from the company in order to progress. Listen to them, Okay, listen to the talent, you know, what do you need to do to meet their needs, and that’s where once again, here, you come back to having an assessment of where they are, you know, what their potential is performance versus potential, you know, this whole, once you put in certain policies plans in place, in order to adhere to whatever you heard from the, from the talent and to meeting the needs, you can use this as a tool and attracting the top talent in retaining the top talent, you know, both go hand in hand, so to speak. So accordingly, all your efforts will kind of pay off in the long run, you have to keep as a company, we have to keep thinking


how to propel women forward, how to bring in more diversity, how to improve the ratios, a few of the companies that I have spoken to have, you know, started sharing the diversity data, as well as your cash flow information, whatever there is to it, that they do just to demonstrate how serious they are, it takes in a lot to share the diversity ratios as they have, and sometimes, you know, even aspirational data where they would like to be moving forward. So that kind of gives you a task, a goal to prioritize professional development of women, you know, entry, encourage and recruit re entry candidates, these could be female candidates who have dropped out of the workforce in order to have a family take care of the family. You know, there could be any number of reasons, but you know, I believe that, you know, it’s important to to make sure that there are specific efforts that are put in place in order to recruit them. Okay. What can society do finally? Right? We all, I mean, I think we all believe that we embrace and celebrate diversity of ideas and backgrounds, etc. But we have got to look in for the biases that we have the blind spots that we have the inherent biases that we have, you know, once we have that, of course, we’ll be more careful in terms of embracing the diversity pod. empower your daughters, your sons, you know, the your nephews, your nieces, etc. To set and go off at the career goals, regardless of gender. Right. I think you have to stop them young and empowering them and this goes a long way. And celebrating women This is a theme that you have heard me say over and over again, you know, celebrate women who have become successful as a you know, the rest with all of us like role models, so it’s important to celebrate the successful women in our society. Parents, teachers, counselors in our grooming competitive skills. quantitative skills. I think one piece I want to highlight out here is, you know, normally stem that science, technological, in engineering, math, etc, are considered uncool. Somehow we have to change that we, I think

I have met quite a few young girls who are great but defensively, you know, posture that they do not like math or they do not like science, we have to change this we have to evolve this thinking into a place where it’s actually cool to, to go after these quantitative skill sets, etc, and to cool to be competitive. Finally, when it comes into that women need a lot of networking, we need to emotionally connect with one another when it comes into that, you know, so I think this is a great thing that can be leveraged in the society, in the company, etc, to design like flawless customer experience because you know, all this emotional connectivity etc has to kind of result in something positive. And so accordingly leverage those unique strengths of women. Okay. With that, I know I’ve thrown in a lot of stuff at you. But with that, I want to encourage you all to leave your questions, your comments, your feedback, etc. On this I will be happy to to engage with you otherwise. But thank you so much for taking the time to be with me here and to inform me to share the presentation here, take care, be safe, and be happy.

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