As a husband and father, I am fortunate to have three strong women around me: my wife Elsa who was a trader and money manager, my oldest daughter Caity who is a lawyer in Chicago, and Kelsey, who will be attending college this year.
When I reflect on the equality challenges that Elsa faced in the marketplace, and those that my daughters will have to address, I see the glass as half full. We have experienced significant progress in the last few decades on civil rights, gender equality, and more recently, the beginning of broader acceptance of the notion of equality for the LGBT community, including gay marriage.
But when I talk with Caity and Kelsey about what is possible for them, I see how much more needs to be done and both my responsibility and my opportunity to further advance gender and pay equality in the workplace.
According to the 2014 Catalyst Census, only 1.4 percent of the CEOs in the S&P 500 finance and industry sector were women, compared to five percent in the overall S&P 500. Only 19.8 percent held board seats in the financial sector versus 20.7 percent of the overall S&P index of companies.
I don't know if I have the roadmap for how we accelerate and achieve true gender and pay equality in the workplace but I do know that there are several key ingredients for me. First, we must make an affirmative commitment to ensure boards and management teams have highly qualified women executives. For too many companies, this is not yet an imperative and that has to change.
Second, companies must be willing to provide flexible work arrangements that provide women executives with a greater ability to balance and meet competing demands. This may mean creative solutions that allow for part-time leadership roles, job-sharing or simply work anywhere policies that help keep talented women in the workplace. We need to stop the exodus of smart, talented and ambitious women from the workplace due to rigid and archaic organizational models and policies.
Third, we must find ways to facilitate re-entry of women who have opted to spend more time with their children and subsequently wish to return to their careers. We must work harder at providing these opportunities, both so we can take advantage of the talent and experience that many women accumulate over the course of their careers but also so we can send the message that you can leave and come back. Too many women leave the workplace knowing that it may effectively be the end of their career versus just one chapter of many.
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, once said, "Women's empowerment is not just a fundamental moral cause, it also is an absolute economic no-brainer." She could not be more right. Smart companies should see gender and pay equality as not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.
It is very important for companies like OCC to embed diversity into their culture and throughout their operations. As Executive Chairman, I want OCC to be looked upon as an inclusive firm, integrating and aligning diversity and inclusion into our business strategy as opposed to just checking a box.
That way, we can set a good example for the next generation of women like Caity and Kelsey.
To learn more about OCC's thought leadership on industry issues, visit OCC's Blog.