Leveraging The Four Critical Business Functions To Accelerate Your Women’s Leadership Strategy (Part 3 of 4)

How to Operationalize Your Women’s Leadership Strategy (Part 3 of 4)

Recap: In Part 1 I discussed the need to have an integrated approach to your Women’s Leadership Strategy and linked it to three critical business drivers, 1) Grow Revenue, 2) Improve Operating Profit, 3) and Enhance Your Corporate Reputation. In

In Part 2, I discussed the need to have a simple yet powerful baseline business case that the entire organization can easily understand – the 80/80/80 Solution is the foundation to build an Integrated Women’s Leadership Strategy.

And while a strategy and business case are important, we also know that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

For your Integrated Women’s Leadership Strategy to succeed, you need to engage the Four Most Important Business Functions to operationalize and execute the plan with a sense of urgency.

Accelerate Your Women’s Leadership Strategy

The four most important Business Functions for success are 1) Marketing, 2) Operations (Sales, Supply Chain and all P/L Functions, 3) Human Resources and 4) Senior Leadership. This is not to minimize the importance of other key roles such as Finance, IT, Legal and other staff functions, but to truly be successful, your Integrated Women’s Leadership Strategy must be owned by the business.

Marketing – When it comes to making or influencing key purchasing decisions in any household, women hold an incredible amount of power.

According to sheconomy.com , 85% of all consumer purchases from groceries and home improvements to automobiles and health care are all conducted by women.

And when it comes to the enormity of global and national buying power of women, figures like $20 trillion and $7 trillion respectively are thrown about. That number is greater than the economies of India and China put together, yet most companies still treat women like a niche.

Many companies assume that marketing is already an integrated part of your women’s strategy yet this is not always true. It is rare that the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) and their teams are ever involved in discussions to closer link their work with a broader organizational strategy around women. Today it is critical that the CMO and the CDO (Chief Diversity Officer) have shared goals and shared metrics.

Operations – This is often the least integrated factors in a women’s strategy. Sales, the primary revenue driver in every organization is rarely included in a women’s leadership strategy. Simply put, has your sales team had any training and development to make them more gender competent?

Similarly, women are often significantly underrepresented in sales and operational roles.

Operations is also the pipeline to the C-Suite. If women do not have P/L responsibility it is very challenging to find a role on the Operating Committee in the C-Suite.

Sales, Operations and Supply Chain must have key measures and metrics around your women’s leadership strategy. If you don’t have enough women on the front lines, you are never going to produce the sort of leaders who will advance up the ranks.

I believe a lack of women in Operating roles is the number one reason there’s a paltry 16 percent of women in the C-Suite and the ones that are there are mostly in lead staff functions

If we want to break this chain, the company will have to make a 10-15 year commitment to advancing women in sales and operations to truly effect change at the top.

Human Resources – There has never been a greater time for Human Resources to redefine their role as strategists and secure a more important seat at the table. HR play’s the vital role in supporting the company’s women’s strategy by focusing closely on how female employees are hired, retained, and advanced through the ranks. That being said, HR cannot own your women’s leadership strategy, it has to be owned by the business. HR’s role today is to drive the organization’s cultural competency regarding women in everything from monitoring and reducing the pay gap to giving all employees more flexible schedules. Make no mistake, the role is critical to success but the ownership and accountability must lie in the business.

Senior Management – Finally, you will never make any woman’s advancement work if you do not have a visible commitment from Senior Management.

Too many organizations run the rank and file through programs and training with the belief that senior leaders already have a good understanding of how to make a women’s strategy work. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Most Senior Leadership Teams (still 85% men in most organizations) have no idea how to support or engage in this work. The key is visible commitment. The organization will know in a minute if leadership is just giving lip service to your program. Visible commitment drives action.

These four connected critical business functions sit on the foundational business case.

In Part 4 of the series, I will examine the final key elements of Corporate Reputation and the need for an Integrated Communications Strategy.

If you want to learn more about how to create an Integrated Women’s Leadership Strategy you can down load Chapter 1 of my, WHY Women The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men. To buy the book, click here.

HuffPost logoA version of this article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Image credit: Bigstock/endomotion

Jeffery Tobias Halter is the country’s leading male expert on advancing women and engaging men. He is the President of YWomen, a strategic consulting company focused on engaging men in women’s leadership issues. Jeffery is a TEDx speaker, Huffington Post Blogger and the author of two books, WHY WOMEN, The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men and Selling to Men, Selling to Women. Keep in touch @YWomen.