Empowerment of women a must for corporations
As competition heats up in the global economy, companies are increasingly utilizing women as a resource for competitiveness ― and aspiring businesswomen must be prepared to seize the opportunity, Isabel Aguilera, a prominent Spanish executive, said .
“Women are not recognized as they should both in quantity and quality in the development and output of our full potential of talent,” Aguilera told the Hankook Ilbo, a sister paper of The Korea Times, in a recent interview.
“However, current competitiveness requirements and effcient and complete use of resources make the economic inclusiveness of all groups, genders and cultures absolutely necessary,” she said.
Aguilera, the former president of General Electric (GE) Spain and former CEO of Google Spain and Portugal, will travel to Seoul to participate in the Global Women’s Leadership Conference to be hosted by the Hankook Ilbo, Nov. 29 to 30.
Firms hoping to maintain an edge in the 21st-century economy would be wise to heed Aguilera’s advice, as her wealth of experience recently saw her named as one of the 50 most influential women on the planet by Fortune Magazine.
Bringing more women into the fold is a matter of common business sense, said Aguilera.
“Innovation and new ideas might come from anybody, anywhere and at any time. Rejecting the contribution of 50 percent of the global talent in any business is, at least, a risky game in a world where every mistake pays a high price,” she said.
Though Google and GE may seem to represent disparate corporate approaches ― the former is seen as always on the cutting edge, the latter bound in tradition ― the two giants apply similar equality-based rubrics when it comes to recruiting talent.
“Both companies are based in three pillars: innovation, technology and talent. Those three pillars are opposed to gender or any other discrimination,” she said.
When discrimination was found, however, she stresses that they were due to “human mistakes” representing a lack of training and education and procedures are in place to address such cases.
The failure to do so has huge implication for companies, she added. “If such procedures are not put in place immediately, it means that even big companies relax in their sharp execution and might represent the beginning of their end.”
Now a business and motivational speaker, Aguilera said that, at a time when “board diversity” percolates as a buzzword, the journey to the top of the corporate mountain can be an arduous one for women.
She said it is a “continuous personal effort in getting the right set of capabilities, taking the opportunities and the risks when they are offered and the need of demonstrating commitment, leadership and results out of those opportunities.”
The road to success could be harder for those in Asia, with companies in the region naming fewer women to senior management and board postions. Korea hovers near the bottom in gender equality, claiming the 104th position among 134 countries surveyed by the World Economic Forum.
But Aguilera expects the tide to turn in Asia, as well as other regions still lacking in the corporate empowerment of women.
“Global companies in any part of the world are always looking and listening to the market. Considering women and other diversities is the rational decision when all data, all numbers and trends are taken into account,” she said.
As for young women aspiring to shatter gender barriers in the corporate world, Aguilera stressed the need for preparation, to develop competitive and in-demand capabilities and to deliver results.
“We also must be disciplined and perseverant, never giving up, and multiply the results of our good work with the right male and female networking,” she said. “After that, recognition will come naturally.”