How Diversity Directly Impacts A Company’s Bottom Line

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffery Tobias Halter, iPresident of >YWomen, a strategic consulting company focused on engaging men in women’s leadership advancement. Founder of the >Father of Daughter Initiative, creator of the >Gender Conversation QuickStartersNewsletterand the >Male Advocacy Profile, Jeffery is the country’s leading male expert on advancing women and engaging men. Speaker, consultant and thought leader, he has authored two books, >WHY WOMEN, The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Menand >Selling to Men, Selling to Women.

What is your “backstory”?

My journey to becoming a gender diversity strategist was a winding one. After college, in the middle of the Rust Belt in 1978 and with a family to support, I took a job selling beauty supplies on full commission.

I was 22 when I cracked the relational nature of women. I realized that if one salon owner bought from you and was pleased with your service, she would introduce you to her entire network of friends and family. Over the next four years, I went from running a single, small territory to overseeing a network of six states and 50 employees. At the time, no one was talking about the purchasing and influencing power of women.

From there, I joined the 97 percent male-majority sales team at Procter & Gamble selling feminine napkins to male grocery store owners. Demonstrating the product was a rather embarrassing venture for all involved and left me wondering why women weren’t involved in the process. I joined the sales team at The Coca-Cola Company in 1985. After 15 years in the field, I joined Sales Training in Atlanta. In 2000, The Coca-Cola Company experienced a $200 million racial discrimination lawsuit, and I was assigned to work on the Diversity Education curriculum. As a straight white guy, I wondered what meeting did I forget to attend to get assigned to this project. I did not want this job. But something happened. As I sat in my diversity program on a daily basis, I heard stories — stories of sexism and racism and homophobia. And I had what is commonly referred to as a “white male epiphany.” That’s when you realize what white male privilege is and that the entire world revolves around you. It had been invisible to me until that moment.

I became inquisitive. I started researching. I began to understand that recognizing there was a gender diversity problem alone wasn’t going to fix it. My work as Director of Diversity Strategy for The Coca-Cola Company led me to found YWomen in 2011, a gender strategy consulting firm. Since then, I’ve authored two books, WHY WOMEN, The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men and Selling to Men, Selling to Women, and I’ve worked with dozens of companies to advance women and engage men in the process.

Making headway on the gender diversity equity issue in corporate America is tough. Most organizations have a conceptual idea of why advancing women is a good idea, but few have an operating strategy or an integrated, corporate end-to-end approach. I work with clients to create business cases, strategies and organization roll-out plans with metrics and scorecards — measurable data is something all leaders can understand and get behind. The strategy and communications plans to introduce and integrate a plan for gender equity is 80 percent of the work — and make up the “head piece.”

The “heart piece” — driving people to advocacy — can be more difficult. I have found that advocacy — true advocacy — takes a personal connection. That connection may be a working spouse, a sister or more commonly being the father of a daughter. Helping people find that connection is critical. Gender inequality issues in the workplace are not just women’s issues. They are societal issues that will take men and women working together to resolve.

Male engagement is essential. A father enraged about how his daughter will be treated and compensated in the workplace could change the game. The problem is many men who want to be advocates don’t know what to do on a daily basis to demonstrate advocacy. This stated need in the workplace led to the creation of my Father of a Daughter Pledge. It is a voluntary opt-in program whereby a man commits to do one of 10 things on a daily basis to demonstrate that he is an advocate for women. One of the simplest actions to take is to write his daughter’s name on the pledge and post it in his office to show that he is an advocate.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I’ve had the opportunity to see the impact of gender diversity from an entirely new perspective since I started YWomen. After spending much of my sales career in male-majority gatherings, I’m now one of the few men the room. A few years ago, I was invited by a colleague to the Mary Kay National Sales Meeting. I was one of maybe 50 men among 25,000 highly motivated sales women. Just feeling the energy and passion that these women have for their products and their company was amazing. I have attended dozens of sales meetings and never have witnessed that amount of passion before. It filled the convention hall! More than 50 women received recognition and awards for reaching $1 million in Mary Kay sales. What an impact! Many companies say they can’t get women into sales roles, but if I were a recruiter for any company, including financial services or technologies, I would be looking closely at this talent pool.

Men and women are having vastly different experiences at work. Another opportunity I have as a gender diversity strategist is to hear real stories from women about the challenges they face — challenges that most men and most senior leaders never hear about because they simply don’t ask. Recently, I worked with a major pharmaceutical company. In a session with 60 women — all PhDs doing high-level research on amazing drugs — I told them I was meeting with their senior leadership team at lunch and asked if there was anything they wanted me to share. The room exploded. They said their research was double-checked more than the work of their male colleagues. They said they weren’t respected, their ideas were talked over and they were expected to do more administrative tasks by their male co-workers despite having the same job titles. In just 45 minutes, I knew more about the gender dynamics at this company simply because I asked the question and listened to the responses. I experience the same thing in every company, in every industry I work in.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

To my knowledge, I am the only man in the country doing this type of strategy work with Senior Leadership teams. There are a few other men doing consulting work. However, most come at it from a Human Resources, academic or a “privilege/healthy masculinity” point of view. I am the only one with 25+ years of line and business experience working to address corporate gender strategy.

I consider myself a business consultant first and foremost, who chooses to focus on women as a disruptive business strategy. I believe that a women’s leadership strategy must be owned by “the business,” which includes functional areas in the company that control Sales, Marketing, Operations and Supply Chain. This is where the P&L lives, and these are the people who need to be convinced. HR and other staff functions can play critical support roles, and then, of course, Senior Leadership needs to do its job.

Recently, I worked with a client who wanted to develop a five-year women’s leadership plan, synthesizing it into one page that would act as a multi-functional road map for the company. This plan was taken through the same process that you would take any other long-term plan (like a major brand or product launch). The plan was implemented by training 100 gender champions (men and women) from the business to go out and train the rest of the organization. And, like most major initiatives, the compensation of senior leaders was tied to the achievement of the plan’s objectives.

Because the company wanted to address both women in the marketplace (as primary purchase influencers) and in the workplace (as a talent base and pipeline), YWomen was uniquely suited to help them create and implement an actionable, measurable strategy to transform (or disrupt) their business. My deep knowledge and experience with some of the biggest players in corporate America positioned me to meet their specific needs and help them accomplish their long-term aspirations for diversity.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

I believe we are at a tipping point when it comes to gender diversity in the workplace. Women have been flooding the middle management pipeline for years, and in January 2017, when more than 2 million women around the world marched in the Women’s March, the national conversation exploded and the floodgates opened. The #MeToo, #MentorHer, #TimesUp and other movements have become an impetus to a larger conversation about gender equity. It’s not political. After years of not being heard, women are finally being heard. It’s time to resolve the inequities and rethink male-dominated cultures that are prevalent in most workplaces, which makes this an exciting time to be a gender diversity strategist!

Organizations and leaders need to have meaningful conversations on gender equality, workplace culture and on race. Unfortunately, the majority of companies are woefully unprepared for these conversations and strategic initiatives. The #MeToo movement has made every company vulnerable to the sudden exposure of bad behavior within its walls. Every company is only as strong as its weakest manager. I’ve heard stories of leaders who are now afraid to mentor women or meet with them behind closed doors. This is ludicrous, and it is not leadership. How can you stop managing your people? How can you stop training your sales force?

This is a time for senior leaders to be visible and vocal. CEOs need to do four critical things: 1) On a regular basis, remind the company they have a “zero-tolerance” policy against sexual harassment and discrimination of any kind. 2) Remind people that the company has values that are posted on the walls addressing how employees are expected to treat each other. If companies are truly living these values, sexual harassment should not be an issue. 3) Have an independent 800 number or Ombuds. In many companies, HR is simply not up to the task. 4) Take immediate action on predators. Nike is the best recent example of this.

It’s both a busy and exciting time to work with companies that are serious about advancing women and understanding that engaging men is the essential ingredient to creating real and meaningful change within their organizations.

Based on my client work and the national conversion surrounding gender equity, I have several exciting projects underway, including Executive Briefing Sessions, Male Advocacy Profile, Gender Unconscious Bias Training and my Gender Conversation QuickStarters e-newsletter series.

Executive Briefings: With companies grappling with where to begin to address women’s issues within their organization, I’ve created a customizable Executive Briefing Session specifically designed for C-Suite leaders, an executive team, senior HR leadership and Chief Diversity Officers in order to create a private forum to explore and address women’s leadership and advancement. These sessions are tailored to bring a fresh perspective to creating an integrated women’s leadership strategy, exploring topics that leaders often don’t want to talk about, and examine why your women’s leadership advancement program is stuck and establishing initiatives to find and engage male champions. Men are still 85 percent of senior leadership, which means we’re 85 percent of the problem, but we’re also 85 percent of the solution. It has to start at the top.

Male Advocacy Profile (MAP): With the #MeToo, #TimesUp and #MentorHer movements in the daily news and national conversation, many men are asking, “What can I do to better support women and demonstrate my advocacy for female colleagues?” I partnered with Rachana Bhide, founder of The Corner of the Court Project, success stories of male allies shared by women, to create the MAP tool. The MAP is designed to help men determine where they are on the male ally continuum. The 20-question quiz focuses on the workplace dynamics of gender equity and, based on the score, we suggest practical action steps that will drive change and enhance advocacy of women in the workplace.

Unconscious Gender Bias Training: So many companies are doing unconscious bias training, and most of it doesn’t work. For unconscious bias training to be successful, it must take a deep dive into cultural differences. An online course or even a program facilitated by the instructor without proper knowledge and expertise will not work. The reason unconscious bias training doesn’t work is that it doesn’t go deep enough. Companies today must offer unconscious bias sessions with deep dives into gender, race, age and specifically white male culture. To assist companies, I’ve developed an Unconscious Gender Bias Training workshop to take a deep dive into gender-related bias. In my work to find and create male champions to advocate for advancing women, I have found it’s a combination of 75 percent business case and 25 percent personal connection. This personal connection piece is the most critical element to moving people from merely understanding diversity to becoming advocates for it.

Gender Conversation QuickStarters: Early in your career, you are taught never to discuss religion, sex or politics in the workplace — ever! Today, standards are shifting, and political affiliations, gender and women’s issues are discussed on a daily basis. I recently developed a seriesof e-newsletters called Gender Conversation QuickStarters. Each month, I share three topics that can serve to start open and honest conversations between men and women in the workplace. Importantly, each topic has a link to a video or white paper to share as pre-read. The topics can be used in your weekly staff meetings, for one-on-one conversations, for quick lunch-and-learn topics or at your women’s employee resource group. Additionally, the topics are designed to support your organization’s women’s leadership advancement strategy and development.

There is only one golden rule to follow: Assume good intent in all conversations. Someone will possibly say something wrong or perhaps inappropriate. That is okay! The value of this tool is to have a dialogue.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

CEOs are in the position to close the gender diversity divide. Full stop. Period. The three greatest benefits that a company can provide to help employees thrive are workplace flexibility, transparency in pay equity and a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.

Many companies have flex time but people are afraid to take it, believing it will limit their careers. If women are the only ones using the benefit, they will be perceived as a less committed than their male colleagues. We are connected to our employees 24/7 with smart technologies. Between child care, horrific commute times and a desire for some semblance of a personal life, everyone benefits from flex time. The notion of “face time” is one of the greatest drivers of disengagement. And the cost to companies to implement flextime? Zero!

Regarding pay equity, every CEO could have a report on his or her desk tomorrow morning that shows the pay gap for men, women and people of color. Most don’t want to know, as it will force them to do something about it. In the war for talent, be assured that more and more potential employees are looking for companies that are publicly committed to transparency in pay equity.

Finally, as I mentioned before, every CEO immediately needs to issue a memo stating, “Our company has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment” and implement the recommendations above. Senior leaders are naive if they think it’s not happening in their company, and they are ultimately responsible.

Additionally, on a more broad basis, I encourage my clients to initiate these four key actions:

LISTEN- Most leaders want to lead first, and this is their first stumbling block. So few leaders are willing to listen to what is going on within their organization. I encourage leaders to seek to understand. Without listening, you’ll never hear about the root causes of problems. Consider how many companies have learned about problems within their organization via a blog post, social media, private internal survey or lawsuit. Get ahead of curve. Listen.

LEARNToo many leaders want a quick fix. Developing a deep understanding and knowledge about the issues is paramount to creating an effective strategy and long-term solution.

LEADLead by example. Put qualified female candidates in leadership and boardroom roles. The question is often raised, “What’s the business case for women on boards?” However, no one ever asks, “What’s the ROI for another white male on a board?” Women are 50 percent of the workforce and 80 percent of the consumers. It just makes good business sense. Ask tough questions.

HAVE THE WILL- Take personal accountability. Set measurable goals for your leadership team and hold people accountable. Be visible and vocal in your leadership.

None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are?

I have obviously had a lot of great mentors along the way. However, as I reflect on this work, I have actually learned more from the people whom I was mentoring. I have actively mentored people for more 20 years, and I have always mentored people who are unlike me. I choose to mentor women and people of color. While I helped them learn to navigate the corporate world, I have learned far more from listening to them. Hearing about the experiences in their lives has allowed me to “hear, grapple with and understand” things that I could not imagine.

One mentee was an African American female, an MBA from a top-five school. She shared the following experience with me. When she wears business attire and straightens her hair, no one gives her problems when she travels. When she is in braids and jeans, literally every TSA officer hassles her. She has trouble with cab drivers and hotel staff as well. It is only by hearing about the experiences other people are having that you truly learn what others are going through.

Finally, though I have never met him, Tom Peters inspired me to do this work. Back in 2002 in his speech “Re-IMagine,” he talks about the Business Case for Women. He got me really curious. Two of my favorite quotes are:

“Women buy ALL The Stuff.” (83 percent of the U.S. B2C economy, $7 trillion) Women, as purchasers of retail and professional goods and services, dominate virtually every market category you can name. And are blithely ignored by 99 percent of companies. Sure, most firms nod to the woman consumer. But only the rarest of Big Players realign the enterprise strategically… around the woman as a consumer.

Men are totally, helplessly clueless when it comes to knowing anything about women.Tom Peters continues, “Guys, if you’re still running these companies, women are now making 80, 85 percent of the financial decisions in a household. Start talking to them.”

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I provide hope and inspiration to thousands of women (and a good number of men) each year. I talk to them about their power rising. I see it firsthand every week when I attend a women’s leadership conference, and it is filled with amazing women at the top of their games, along with passionate women who are just starting their careers. I let them know that there are men out there who want to help them bring gender balance and equity to the workplace. Not all men, but I believe up to 30 percent of men are “ready now” to be advocates. They just need to be invited in.

Can you share the top five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each)

The business case for increased diversity is clear. Simply stated, diversity has a direct impact to a company’s bottom line. Here are five tangible benefits:

Growing Top-Line Revenue

Women buy or influence literally the entire B2C economy, yet their voices are largely ignored.

How can you grow Top-Line Revenue without genuinely understanding women? Consider the statistics from The Power of the Purse by Fara Warner. Women buy or influence:

91 percent of home purchases, yet most homes are still designed by men.

70 percent of car purchases, yet not a single car maker has figured out what to do with a woman’s purse, other than putting it on the passenger’s side seat.

85 percent of all consumables, yet 89 percent of advertising creative directors are men.

In the next 15 years, women will inherit $40 trillion in private wealth, yet more than 75 percent of personal wealth managers are men, (whom the woman often fires when her husband dies).

In the B2B world, women are sitting on 40 percent of the corporate buying desks. According to a Harvard Business Review study of B2B sales teams, men approach sales transactionally and women approach sales relationally. To quote the article, “You can’t show up with a bunch of 42 longs and expect to be successful.”

Just look at the recent Nike revelations to underscore the impact of not having women working at all levels of their women’s business. According to reports, their market share in a rapidly growing market segment is dismal.

Improving Operating Profit

The war for talent is real. Our country does not have enough engineers, scientists, skilled laborers or truck drivers. The war for talent has shifted from the power belonging to the employer to the power belonging to the employee. Consider these facts:

10,000 Baby Boomers (largely white men) are retiring and leaving the workplace every day, every year for the next seven years.

New entries into the workforce are 85 percent women, people of color and millennials. The very face of organizations is changing overnight.

Women are earning 60 percent of the master’s degrees and 58 percent of the bachelor’s degrees.

10 of the largest states in the country have larger populations of people of color than whites, including California, New York and Texas.

Millennials will be the largest percentage of the workforce by 2020 and 75 percent of the workforce by 2024.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement equals productivity. High-performing companies strive for 80 percent engagement. That means in an 8-hour day, my best employees are doing 6.4 hours of productive work. According to USA Today, the average American worker is engaged at a 50 percent level, which means I am paying for eight hours of work, and you are giving me four.

According to a Deloitte study, 78 percent of business leaders rate retention and engagement as urgent or important, but only 15 percent believe they are ready to address it.

Sodexo found that organizations that effectively capitalize on the strengths of all employees and leverage their differences and unique values have the most engaged employees. In addition, employees with the highest level of engagement perform 20 percent better and are 87 percent less likely to leave the organization, according to a survey by TowersPerrin.


According to a Forbes Study of 300 large companies, 85 percent of companies agree a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation.

Enhancing/Protecting Company Reputation

Being a great place to work or having an integrated women’s leadership program is a baseline expectation of great companies today. This speaks across all aspects of diversity. Millennial employees are looking at your Human Rights Campaign Index (a barometer of how LGBTQ friendly your company is), as a guide because if you are not LGBTQ friendly, you might not be the kind of place they want to work.

It can protect you against unforeseen circumstances. Starbucks is the latest example of this. In an age where everything can be video recorded and instantly distributed, you are only as good as your weakest manager. Whether it’s a racial issue or sexual harassment, if your company has already been doing work in this area, you will be better prepared for how to respond to the news and immediately get back to business as usual.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?”

I actually have two life lesson quotes. Being a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan, I have to give a nod to Vince Lombardi. Many people think he was only about winning, but they are missing his greatest talent. He was really about building character. Most of his players enjoyed amazing success after their football careers. My favorite quote of his is, “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”

On a lighter note, I am also guided by the words of the greatest poet of my generation (with apologies to Maya Angelou), Jimmy Buffett, who said, “Life is just about those changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes. Nothing remains quite the same, with all of our running and all of our cunning, if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)

There are two people that I’d like to meet. One is Oprah Winfrey — because she’s Oprah! I admire the conversations she starts and the topics she tackles. The second is Tom Peters. I would like him to know that the work he started so many years ago continues on.


YWomen: >

Father of Daughter Initiative: >

Male Advocacy Profile: >

Executive Briefings: > >

Gender Conversation QuickStarters: >

Source :

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