As we conclude our International Women’s Day Celebration, Global Chairman and CEO, AnnaMaria DeSalva, shares her thoughts with H+K colleagues around the globe on the importance of the day.
I hope you are enjoying the weekend – including today’s very special, global recognition of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world.
At H+K, we are celebrating International Women’s Day with a special series featuring almost 30 of our women leaders across the company. I’ve taken inspiration from their insights and experiences, and I hope that you will too.
This year, I’m struck by the relationship between the message of International Women’s Day, our purpose as a firm, and the opportunities all of us have to grow and develop as people and as leaders.
The advancement of women across recent decades reflects the inevitable logic that no society can afford to be deprived of the full resources of half its population. And while much progress has been made, there is still a significant territory to cover. As we close the gap to achieve true equality, we will create a more ‘humanist’ world – where the vast capabilities of all people are evident and activated. As a talent-driven company dedicated to successfully connecting our clients to their publics, we need to maintain an urgent focus on inclusion in our own ranks and on fully tapping human potential. Fortunately, I believe our values as a company vibrantly support our opportunity to be successful in this regard. If we’re not, we will compromise our own currency.
Today I’m also reminded of one of the happiest times of my life and career. Right around the year 2000, I led international and women’s health programs at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. My daily mission was to figure out strategies to achieve the multiplier effect of investment in women and girls globally. I don’t think the inspiration of those years will ever fully escape me. When we prioritize the empowerment of women, we speed development, improve health, and drive economic expansion. There are endless opportunities to achieve this kind of return, both small and large.
Which leads to a third reflection regarding the reality of being a woman in leadership today. I participate in many management and governance forums, where the problem of parity in corporate leadership is a perennial topic. No doubt, we need to double down on the obstacles that prevent women from advancing across the leadership pipeline, and solving this problem is a business imperative. The data are clear; businesses that have diverse leadership teams outperform competitors and create more value.
If I’m honest, however, I find myself more drawn to the conversations that point to the dual opportunity for high achieving women to reach in two directions. One, focused on governing countries and corporations so that they might be more successful. The other, to simultaneously close the considerable chasms that still exist for millions of women across enormous sections of the globe. It is this image of women reaching in both directions that inspires me most. It’s a form of intentional yoga that I would personally like to practice.
Finally, I’ve been concerned that the recent public dialogue intended to advance and protect women and improve ethical standards for conduct in the workplace has had some unintended, negative consequences – even as it has created important change. No observation of women’s advancement is complete without recognizing the very important and positive role of men, which does not get nearly enough daylight. We are fortunate to have empowering male leaders here at H+K, and today we also recognize them and the countless men who want women to thrive, and who support us in many ways at work, at home, and at the table of friendship.
Thanks for allowing me to interrupt your Sunday with these few thoughts, intended to celebrate the incredible women we have at our company and throughout each of our lives. I look forward to all we will do together as one gifted, human team – equal to and worthy of the opportunities we have ahead of us, and stronger than the challenges.