Women’s Leadership by Investment: Drop by Drop We Can Fill a Bucket

Editor’s Note: Yesterday we gathered young women funding social impact for a Catalytic Women event. I’m continually energized to see how women in their 20s and 30s either don’t perceive gender barriers or, simply, aren’t deterred by them. Our guest blogger Suzanne Sheuerman offers a terrific step that any woman can take to use her wealth with a gender lens for greater impact. [MH]

As a woman in Corporate America, I have come to realize that women must collaborate to bring about change. As you can guess, the change to which I am referring is related to women and their role in Corporate America. Having been the highest ranking woman in a Fortune 100 company with no real chance of ever becoming the CEO, my story may be relatively typical of a 58-year-old woman. I can get close, but no cigar. In my view, close just isn’t good enough anymore.

After studying the facts, one would come to the rational decision that women at very senior levels of business are vital to operational excellence. A Credit Suisse study conducted in August of 2012 demonstrated that companies with a woman on the board performed better in most metrics than comparable companies. [And Catalyst has done fascinating reports on gender roles, with similar findings.] Having read the article with great interest, I suddenly had an “ah ha” moment: Why can’t we build a “portfolio” of women-led companies?

As I began my research I was (sadly, not) surprised to find there are not even enough women CEO’s in the Fortune 500 screen to create a sector-diverse portfolio. Looking more broadly to the Fortune 1,000, I was able to find more women-led companies.

Then I looked at my definition of “woman-led” and reflected that one woman on a Board is simply not adequate. Why reward that? A woman-led portfolio deserves a more robust standard. So I screened for companies with boards that had three or more women, or were comprised of at least 30% women. Delightfully, I had a very nice list of potential publicly traded companies.

When asked by one of my friends if I had included companies that may not have a woman CEO, but did have “C Level” women at the top, such as a COO or CTO, my answer was an emphatic “no.” I felt the CEO designation for leadership was critical for the purposes of the portfolio I wanted to create, and I just couldn’t find enough women in that role. While there were lots of companies who had women in “second best” roles, in my view they were not as deserving of my investment.

This is my one small step as a woman to support other women. Adding an element to my own investments that includes women-owned companies is my drop in the bucket. It is my personal, happy drop in the bucket that, I hope, we will work together to fill.

As you think about where you can make an impact, I ask you to join me. Think about the companies where you invest as a tool to support women’s leadership. Help fill our bucket.
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Suzanne Sheuerman is a First Vice President, Portfolio Management Director and Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in San Jose, CA. Formerly she was a Managing Director at Household International where she worked for 18 years. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, Member SIPC, or its affiliates. We are very pleased that Suzanne is a Professional Member of Catalytic Women.

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