CorporateJune 15, 2016

Women in leadership: Expanding influence and leading change with Nancy McKinstry

McKinstry shares her experiences in improving gender equality within Wolters Kluwer, and offers insights into what it takes to create and execute a strategic vision for change.

On June 24, Wolters Kluwer CEO, Nancy McKinstry will be a guest speaker in a new program developed by Columbia Business School, one of the world’s foremost providers of advanced management training, and Barnard College’s Athena Centre, known globally for its work on advancing women’s leadership. The program ‘Women in leadership: Expanding influence and leading change (next course, November 9-11, 2016)’ is designed to help women leaders navigate the business landscape, develop and leverage their talents, and assume roles of greater influence. McKinstry will share her experiences in improving gender equality within Wolters Kluwer, and offer insights into what it takes to create and execute a strategic vision for change.

The power of parity

In 2015, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) published The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth.

The report, which focused on the enormous potential associated with narrowing the gender gap in both business and social sectors found that, ‘If every country did so at the same historical rate as the fastest-improving country in its regional peer group, the world could add $12 trillion to annual gross domestic product in 2025.’

The study also found that lack of gender diversity is associated with a greater likelihood of below-par performance in the business sector. And, when companies strongly commit to building diverse leadership, they are indeed more successful.

However, while inclusive organizations clearly outperform those that are not, women remain underrepresented in all levels of management. The ‘Women In Leadership’ program wants to change that. Rita McGrath, Faculty Director, Associate Professor and globally recognized strategist, said, ‘This program draws on the very latest thinking, research, and practical ideas on how women can be catalysts for their own, and their organization's, success.’ The level of that success is significant.

Business team performance and gender diversity

In Diversity Matters, McKinsey & Company found that, Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Similar findings were borne out in a study from the Amsterdam School of Economics, University of Amsterdam:

  • Teams with lower percentages of women have lower sales and lower profits than teams with a balanced gender mix
  • Teams with an equal gender mix perform better than male-dominated teams in terms of sales and profits
  • Profits increase as the share of women increases up to 50%. (For higher shares of women, the relation between profits and the share of women is flat)

While correlation is not causation (adding more women to a business team will not automatically improve profitability) and the reasons for this correlation are not yet clear, the findings are convincing.

Nancy McKinstry shared her thoughts in a Financial Times Women in Business special report: Being ‘different’ allowed me to drive the business forward and deliver change. Gender did play a role in helping to drive that change—women tend to be better communicators and more astute at spotting talent, which were critical factors in successfully transforming our business over the past decade.

Since McKinstry joined Wolters Kluwer as CEO in 2003, the number of women in senior positions has risen from 20% to 50%—the optimal gender mix to improve business team performance. This reflects the gender balance throughout our total workforce.

Women currently comprise 67% of Wolters Kluwer divisional CEO positions. And in 2015, Wolters Kluwer was the only listed company in the Netherlands to meet the Dutch government’s aim for company boards to consist of 30 per cent women by 2016.

Download the 2015 Wolters Kluwer Sustainability Report for more information

Unlocking economic opportunity

In an editorial for Het Financieele Dagblad (a daily Dutch newspaper focused on business and financial matters), McKinstry explained that diversity creates more perspectives in discussions, leading to better decision-making, which has direct influence on a company’s results. And closed by saying, ‘As a company, we benefit from this. And if all companies commit to this, the whole of society will benefit’.

If the McKinsey Global Institute findings in The power of parity are anything to go by, that benefit will be worth around $12 trillion.

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