In a new interview, WW International (WTW) CEO Mindy Grossman lamented the lack of women in leadership positions at top companies, calling it “very disappointing” and demanding buy-in from men to improve it.
“Things have to change,” says Grossman, the chief executive of the company formerly known as Weight Watchers. “As much as I think that there has been progress, it’s nowhere near to the level that I think there should have been.”
Grossman made the comments to Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in a conversation that aired on Yahoo Finance on Thursday in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
“If men do not embrace the fundamental belief and understanding that this is a true business imperative and the right decisions have to be made, it's not going to change,” Grossman adds.
Just 6.6% of the businesses featured on the latest Fortune 500 list, released this month, are led by women CEOs. Though a disproportionately low number, the 33 companies led by women CEOs mark a significant jump from last year’s total of 24 such businesses.
Companies with gender diversity in leadership outperform their male-dominated counterparts, according to a report released this month by the International Labour Organization, a division of the United Nations. The report found that companies attain a competitive advantage when they reach a threshold of at least 30% women represented in management, senior leadership, and on boards of directors.
Grossman joined the fashion industry at age 22, working her way up to a job under designer Ralph Lauren, first running the midsize department store brand Chaps and later Polo Jeans. In 2000, Grossman joined Nike, Inc. (NKE), where she served as Vice President of Global Apparel. She then became CEO of the Home Shopping Network (HSNI), serving from 2008 to 2017.
She now heads WW International, formerly known as Weight Watchers, where she took the position two years ago.
‘If you don’t want to be diverse, you’re saying that you don’t want to be successful’
“It is pure empirical evidence that companies that are more diverse have longer term sustainable success,” Grossman says. “So ostensibly, if you don't want to be diverse, you're saying that you don't want to be as successful.”
Grossman called for reforms that would require businesses to disclose actions taken to improve diversity.
“There have to be actionable, measurable things that companies have to report on in order for this to evolve,” Grossman says.
For example, a company should not fill an open position unless 50% of its qualified candidate pool is diverse, she added.
“I have been speaking about the business imperative for diversity for 20 years,” she says. “20 years.”
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance.