In the 20 years since I founded RF|Binder, it’s been incredibly gratifying to see the increase of women-owned and led businesses. Over this time period, the number of women entrepreneurs has risen by 114%. It is incredible to see that today 42% of all U.S. businesses are women-owned, which is an astounding rise when compared to just 4.6% 50 years ago, in 1972.
I grew up as part of a generation that fought to ensure that everyone understood that girls and boys were no different from one another and, as a result, shouldn’t be socialized to a specific gendered perspective. Our goal was to demonstrate girls are equally achievement oriented as boys and more than capable of handling any task. While this is certainly true, I believe the reality is that men and women bring unique perspectives that inform how they approach problem solving and leadership.
Recent research reported in the Harvard Business Review found that firms with more women in senior positions are more profitable and more socially responsible. This performance is attributed to companies becoming more open to change and shifting their focus from an M&A or a knowledge-buying approach to an R&D or a knowledge-building approach following an increase of women in the C-Suite. Further, the extent to which women are integrated within the executive leadership team affects their ability to have the most impact on a company. There is a great deal of data that has shown that women tend to lead using a more inclusive and less hierarchical style, whereas men tend to lead using a more directive style.
As communication experts, we’re fortunate to be in an industry where there are fewer barriers in a woman’s path to the top than in other industries or professions and it’s accepted that women will grow into senior leadership positions. This is especially true in small and mid-size agencies, such as my firm, RF|Binder. Up until recently, many large agencies have traditionally been led by men, but that also is changing. As of 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 59.1% of U.S. public relations specialists are women. Although public relations flourishes regarding gender diversity, it should be acknowledged that our field suffers from a lack of racial diversity: 83.7% of public relations specialists are white. While March is Women’s History Month, and the focus of this blog is women, I hope that we also have learned how critical it is to support all types of diversity, including gender, racial, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability. Diversity of people brings diversity of perspective and thought. This has proven a key driver of innovation and collaboration, which benefits the bottom-line, helping companies continue to grow, innovate and make a positive impact.
Reflecting on the past years, I am so fortunate we’ve had the pleasure of working with numerous impact-driven clients, ranging from private equity to social impact sustainability investment firms, to corporations focused on DEI issues. Our clients also have taken important steps in supporting female executive leadership and women-owned businesses.
At RF|Binder, we are committed to creating a culture of inclusivity, by empowering women, elevating diversity, and ensuring equity. Of our leadership management team, 50% of our Managing Directors and above are women and 60% of our Board are women. We continue to prioritize hiring talent from all backgrounds. Further, we have been tracking pay equity for years and we are at 100% pay equity, ensuring that everyone across the organization receives fair compensation, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.
This International Women’s Day, let’s take the time to reflect on and celebrate how far we’ve come, as we acknowledge the progress that still needs to be made towards even greater diversity, equity and inclusion for women of all backgrounds.