Excuse Me While I Jump in Here . . .

By Michelle Sweeney

The female half of Ingram’s ownership has
a few words about gender roles in business

I am happy to highlight and bring to you the November 2019 issue of Ingram’s, our first Women’s Leadership edition.

The publisher and editorial director thought I would be the right person to pen this month’s Editor’s Note. My first reaction was that they were asking me to do this because it’s a woman-themed issue. I know they mean well, I thought but why haven’t they ever asked me to contribute to an issue on health care, and draw on my expertise as an insurance underwriter? I’d be glad to share my thoughts regarding risk and how insurance companies arguably fail to provide affordable health-care for small-businesses.

On second thought, though, I do have something to say. So consider this the deliverable, guys. And remember: You asked for this. It is way past time to be doing triage on the journalism here based on gender. This is why corporations have formed Diversity and Inclusion offices at their firms. I do trust and believe our senior editorial team had the best of intentions. And I understand that their request was grounded in my role as overseer and advocate of the Women’s Executive-Kansas City awards and annual honors luncheon.

Still, I can’t help but think I’m feeling the same thing I’ve heard expressed by my executive peers in the Kansas City business community. From what I heard just this month at our first-ever Women in Construction and Design Industry Outlook, there is plenty of room for improvement in the executive suites, and not just in design and construction. There are too many companies that have yet to fulfill their pledge of support for inclusion of women in the board room, based on their skills sets—not gender.

 So yes, we have a way to go. But times are changing. Maybe the shift is taking place faster in other cities, but it is definitely happening in the Kansas City region and, I believe, more rapidly than in most American cities. A surprising number of law firms, in particular, have designated women as managing partners over the past several years, including the region’s largest. And according to a study by the Association of
General Contractors, fully half of the firms entering the construction space by the end of 2020 will be owned by women or

As for the here and now, we aren’t quite there yet. I do believe, however, that the last business cycle or two and particularly the last couple of years have witnessed dramatic improvement. So here’s my challenge to you as an employer: Commit to  promoting based on skill. My guess is that you already have very talented people on your payroll who would be quite effective in the executive roles and board room. I know the women leaders highlighted in this edition are a bright bunch. But sitting with many of these women celebrating their honor this month were highly skilled colleagues and associates who have earned both promotion and pay.

Don’t overlook their talent because they don’t fit in the “traditional” role and let’s not get to the point that we have to follow California’s law that requires a female on the board of every publicly traded company. We don’t need more government telling us what we know. Women, and diversity broadly, in the board room is good for business.

I grew up in the ’60s, and know every word of the lyrics from Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman.” Even as I was drafting this, I received a news release on how women have  fared in the CEO’s offices of the nation’s S&P 500 companies. It cited a study conducted by The Conference Board, showing that despite the increase in tenure of CEOs to more than 10 years, and despite many firms’ actually hiring CEOs from within the ranks, the number of women in those leadership roles has decreased to a meager 22. Not 22 percent, mind you: 22. 

Luckily, Kansas City is a community that sees a problem and tries to come together to find solutions. We are seeing this focus in several  industries throughout the metro region. Don’t let this rant get in the way of a very unique and timely issue of Ingram’s that is full of women who are leading many businesses and organizations around the region.

Diversity and inclusion are great for business and improve companies dramatically. We hope you enjoy this unique edition of Ingram’s and will be able to get to know the extraordinary women featured this month and their roles in their organizations, in their industries and in
their place in our great city. 

About the author

Michelle Sweeney is senior vice president and sales director for Ingram's.

P | 816.842.9994

E | MSweeney@Ingrams.com

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