What is your company doing to recognize women as an Operating Priority?

As I work with corporate clients I’ve had many opportunities to understand what holds (well-meaning) men back from fully committing to women’s leadership programs —  the inner thoughts and voices that prevent them from understanding the great economic value women unlock for companies.

Once, when I was invited to speak to the executive women of the Goizueta business school at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, I remember the female executives asking me what their male colleagues were thinking and talking about female leadership –  inside and out of the boardroom. After interviewing many male executives, I can confidently tell you that the majority of men don’t EVEN think about women’s issues, let alone advancing women in the workplace.

The Three Main Things Men Won’t Tell Their Female Colleagues:

  1. “I don’t understand why things need to change. What’s different today that should cause me focus on women?”
  2. “Even if I acknowledge why things needed to change, I don’t know what to change or how to change it.”
  3. “Honestly, I really don’t care. At best I see no value in it. At worst, I may say or do the wrong thing so it’s just plain easier to do nothing.”

If you are a female executive, that last revelation may sting and you may ask:

Why is it so hard for men to have this conversation about female leadership?

It’s a question that almost answers itself when you scan our current business environment.

I would say the main challenge for organizations is that they have not approached women as an “operating priority.”

Operating priority?

Well, if you are a company, you put an economic value on everything. And that’s what you need to do on women’s leadership as well – put a value to it. To achieve urgency and success in this area, corporations have to consider engaging women with a truly integrated, bottom-line value mindset.

Women As an “Operating Priority” – An Economic Opportunity

Consider this: If women were a true operating priority, then organizations would have programs, budgets, processes, and metrics well in place and they would hold people accountable with a demonstrated sense of urgency.

Most importantly, as with all other operating priorities, organizations would have already done the hard work of determining what and where the opportunity gap is and how it can be closed.

The other point to remember is that women drive revenue – inside and outside the company: As consumers, women make 83% of all purchasing decisions in the US and are also the influence major purchasing decisions like homes and cars.

Moreover, they are not just buying, but women are also rapidly creating products and services.

According to a 2014 State of Women-Owned Business report, 1288 women-owned businesses are springing up every day – that’s twice the rate than only three years ago.

With 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States generating more than 1.4 trillion in revenues, ask yourself what is your company doing to attract these potential new clients?

What is your company doing to recognize women as an Operating Priority?

Can your organization, it’s senior leaders, or more importantly front-line management answer the following questions?

  1. What is the current total revenue pie available with a focus on women?
  2. What percentage are we capturing?
  3. What is the revenue/opportunity gap?
  4. How much can we capture with available products and services?
  5. What are the additional products and services that are needed to grow our business and how much will those efforts yield in the next twelve to eighteen months and beyond?

Obviously, these questions will have to be tailored for your company and your specific industry, but it will be a great insight on whether you are capturing one of the biggest economic opportunities you have right now – i.e. women.

If your company can’t answer these questions you will never accelerate progress and you will never get the attention of senior leadership. It’s time for companies to get serious and do their homework, the answers will surprise you.

In Parts Two and Three, I will explore the ‘what has to change’ and ‘why men need to care’.

What’s working for your company? What questions would you add to this list above? Drop me a line here. If you want to know how others companies have answered these questions download the first chapter of my book Why Women.

HuffPost logoA version of this post originally appeared in HuffPost.

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.