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The business world still has a female leadership problem

Ned Ehrbar

More women are entering the workforce than ever before, but they're still underrepresented in leadership roles. Nathalie Molina Niño, author of “Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs” and co-founder of female-focused Brava Investments, has some thoughts on how to address that discrepancy.

Molina Niño says it’s everyone’s responsibility to promote more women into senior leadership positions.

“There's a shared responsibility for everyone in the organization -- male or female -- to make sure that women make it up to the top,” she says. “It's way more difficult than simply opening the door for diversity. It's about inclusion, it's about making sure that once they're in the door people feel welcome and they feel excited about coming to work every day.”

Follow the money

And that effort toward inclusion is good for the bottom line, as more women on a company’s team tends to lead to greater success.

“There are tons of studies that prove that diverse teams tend to result in better profitability and more sustainable business models and more creativity,” Molina Niño says. “In pretty much any field, diversity pays.”

Molina Niño would like to see the business world apply more of the logic that it thinks it’s already utilizing.

“We think that business decisions at all levels are made rationally based on data,” she says. “But women over the age of 50 are twice as likely to be successful as entrepreneurs. So if we as a business community were making decisions based on real data, then Silicon Valley would be drowning in women over the age of 50. But we're not making decisions based on data, and we need to start.”

Closing the gap

The World Economic Forum forecasts that it will take 108 years to close the gender gap. Molina Niño says the best way to accelerate that isn’t to penalize privilege but to emulate it.

“We as women -- especially women of color – tend to have a reticence around this idea of taking shortcuts, and yet every single person with wealth, power and influence today got there because they took a shortcut, whether they admit it or realize it or not,” she says. Leaning into shortcuts -- “pulling favors, helping the friend get into that role, doing whatever it takes” -- is the best strategy for changing that timeline.

Helping self-starters

Another way to change that involves supporting women entrepreneurs, something upon which Molina Niño has built her career. But it’s still an uphill battle.

“If you look at the numbers, they've actually gone down,” she says. “Two-and-a-half percent of venture capital goes to women-owned businesses, which is incredibly disappointing. And the slice that goes to women of color is 0.2%. None of that is encouraging to me.”

Quotas work

One solution Molina Niño isn’t planning to rule out? Hiring quotas.

“Quotas work. They have always worked, they will continue to work,” she says. “I am a Latina who grew up in a family without means, and if it hadn't been for affirmative action policies, I would not be here today. And I have created thousands of jobs for people in countries in over 30 countries around the world, and my contribution for society would not have happened had it not been for quotas.”

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter.