THE BLOG
10/13/2014 01:33 pm ET Updated Dec 13, 2014

Love Women? Prove It!

Aping Vision / STS via Getty Images

By Joanne Cleaver

Do you love women?

Who doesn't?

Every company loves women. Everyone's all about women: recruiting them, retaining them, promoting them, helping them start companies, win investments, sponsoring them and helping them to learn and gain confidence.

Women are one of the biggest ongoing business news stories of the year.

And they continue being a story because, for all the confetti and marching bands, women still comprise a sliver of top leaders in nearly every industry.

Anything that translates the business case for advancing women to business results shows a new way forward. That's why the certification for gender equality offered by EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) has been grabbing attention in the last few weeks. It's a 'seal of approval' that verifies that an employer actually advances women into leadership. EDGE sounds new -- but it isn't.

The EDGE methodology is great. I'd know: I developed it in 1998 for Working Woman magazine. Working Woman imploded in 2001, but the methodology lives on in the MOVE Project, an annual research effort that measures the proportion of women in various industries, such as public accounting. My firm, Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc., designed and manages various MOVE Projects.

Here's the secret behind the methodology used by both MOVE and the EDGE Certification: It's not about how many women you have.

It's what you do with them.

If 31% of your employees are women, as Facebook recently reported, and 23% of your senior employees are women, you are not making the most of the female talent you already have. Women under-index in the top ranks.

The beauty of this methodology is that it equalizes across industry, professional category and geography.

This eliminates the apples-to-orange-to-pears comparisons that result in recommendations so generic that they are meaningless. Yes, mentors, sponsors and coaches can make a huge difference. But how and when that difference translates from good intentions to good results varies by industry, by workplace culture and by the size and growth stage of each employer.

EDGE is just getting going, but we have over a decade of MOVE results that prove that this methodology works.

For example, women comprise 19% of the management committee members for the 50 CPA firms that participated in the Accounting MOVE Project this year. Women comprised 23% of the management committee members for the 10 largest CPA firms that have participated in MOVE for each of the past four years. As well, those ten firms have consistently improved how they retain and advance women in their partner pipeline. Every year, they do a little better.

MOVE gives them context for continually reinvesting in the women they need to fuel firm growth. When firms start to have measurable increases in women at top levels, they have evidence that they are living their values. That's something to talk about. Increasingly, MOVE firms, such as Seattle CPA firm Moss Adams, publicly release their diversity efforts and results. Job candidates, clients, and anyone else who cares can see how women fare at these firms.

That's why the approach shared by MOVE and EDGE is emerging as the standard for catalyzing genuine advances for women. It's all about transparency and accountability. Don't just say you love women. Prove it.

Sources:

Edge website http://www.edge-cert.org
Working Woman http://jycleaver.com/portfolio/projects
MOVE website http://wilson-taylorassoc.com/move/accounting
Facebook diversity stats link http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2014/06/building-a-more-diverse-facebook/
Moss Adams Forum W annual report
http://www.mossadams.com/mossadams/media/Documents/Publications/Reports/HRX130708-Forum_W-Annual-Report-2013.pdf