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According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the American workforce is approximately 57% female,1 a ratio that is expected to increase. The U.S. Department of Education reports that by 2026, the number of women attending and finishing college will continue to outpace the number of men, with women making up 57% of students across the country.2 Therefore, more women will arrive in the workforce with specific leadership skills than men. The workforce of the future will bring the benefits of diverse leadership — if organizations build their pipelines accordingly.

And yet, most people associate leadership with men. According to the Pew Research Center®, women are often underrepresented in corporate and governmental leadership positions.3 This is because biases against women keep organizations from enjoying the benefits of diverse leadership.

Key Takeaways

  • An organization that limits its talent pool due to bias also limits its ability to thrive.
  • Having more points of view is a competitive advantage for serving the marketplace.
  • Diverse leadership starts with proper recruiting and training for management.

A Deep Talent Pool Matters

Having a diverse mix of people in the leadership pipeline is a competitive advantage for many reasons. First and foremost, it gives businesses a larger pool from which to find its leaders, increasing the likelihood of finding individuals who can meet the challenges of the day. As needs change, so do the skills needed by leaders.

An organization that limits its talent pool, either implicitly or explicitly, limits its ability to find the best match for a given role. An organization that is willing to add diversity to its workforce goals and give them the mentoring and experiences needed to become leaders will be more robust and beneficial in the long run. As more women enter the ranks of public and corporate life, excluding them from the upper ranks will limit an organization’s ability to thrive because it will have excluded qualified people for the jobs at hand.

Getting a Wider Perspective

Along with an enlarged pool of potential leaders, including women in the pipeline has the advantage of giving an organization more points of view. Assuming that a business has women who are customers, having leaders who are women may lead to better overall performance. The implicit biases that keep women out of leadership may also keep executives from responding to the needs of their customers as well as they could.

One of the main benefits of diverse leadership is that organizations with balanced representation have better financial results.4 Research from Harvard Law School found that when there is gender diversity on executive boards, companies are better associated with “environmental and social risk management measures.”5 Leaders who are in touch with different segments of the market can add the value of insiders rather than observers.

Recruiting and Training for the Future at Entry Level

Businesses that want to benefit from the perspectives that diverse leadership teams bring need to start with a diverse talent pool — and this starts with recruiting. Recruiting should start at more diverse colleges and universities, and listings should be placed with professional organizations for women or people of color. There should also be training for managers on interviewing so that they probe for skills rather than chat about common interests. Part of this is training on how to recognize and fight those subconscious views that lead to them holding people back for the wrong reasons.

The future never looks like the past, and organizations that use the same strategy that worked years ago will miss out on the benefits of hiring and developing a diverse talent pool. Although it may take time to get your pipeline where you want it to be, starting now will make a difference and help you maintain your competitive edge.

Steps to Consider

  • As a business leader, connect with individuals who are just starting their careers, then offer to mentor them. By hand selecting talent to work with, you can help change the future of your business.
  • When recruiting new talent, connect with groups that help empower women and minorities to find people who value diversity.
  • Encourage your employees to attend implicit bias training to better understand how they view others.

The Support You Need

For more Key4Women resources to help you reach your goals, visit, or email us to learn more.


U.S. Department of Labor. Accessed February 21, 2019.


National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed February 21, 2019.


Anna Brown. “Despite gains, women remain underrepresented among U.S. political and business leaders”. Accessed February 21, 2019.


Anna Powers. “A Study Finds That Diverse Companies Produce 19% More Revenue”. Accessed February 21, 2019.


Cristina Banahan and Gabriel Hasson. “Across the Board Improvements: Gender Diversity and ESG Performance”. Accessed February 21, 2019.

Pew Research Center is a registered trademark of The Pew Research Center.

The information contained herein has been obtained from sources deemed to be reliable, but it is not represented to be accurate, complete or objective. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor any affiliate of KeyBank is acting as your agent, broker, advisor, or fiduciary, or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice. KeyBank may have current positions or strategies that may be inconsistent with any views expressed herein. is a federally registered service mark of KeyCorp.

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