The financial benefits of gender parity in the corporate world are well documented -- Fortune 500 companies with the greatest representation of women in management positions deliver a return to shareholders that is 34 percent higher than for companies with the lowest representation.
And the key to achieving these impressive returns starts at the top with a commitment from a company's chairman and board of directors that sets the tone for the organization.
Look at what has happened this year in the UK when it overtook the U.S. in its corporate board diversity. In 2010, a group of far-sighted corporate leaders launched the 30% Club, with a goal of achieving a minimum of 30 percent women on FTSE 100 company boards by year-end 2015. They've achieved a level of 26.1 percent, up from 12.5 percent just five years ago. Comparatively, U.S. boards within the S&P 500 stand at 19.2 percentage for female membership.
What did the UK do differently than the U.S.? British boards of directors supported a measurable goal and advocated for a qualified and competitive pool of female candidates. It's worth noting that shareholders also played an important role in advancing that agenda by making it clear to the boards and their chairmen that the issue of gender parity mattered to their stakeholders.