Women at the top boost a brand’s bottom line

“In the FTSE 100, there was not a single woman appointed as an executive to the board in the last year,” complained Cherie Booth QC at a debate held last week by the Evening Standard. “We are under-represented in law, politics and in business.”

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Booth – also known as the partner of former PM Tony Blair – was debating the issue of a lack of senior female executives with a panel comprising other high flying females such as Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save The Children International, and BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson. The panel agreed this was not just an issue for females but brands and organisations themselves.

Shares of companies with a market capitalisation of more than $10bn (£6.23bn) and with women board members outperform comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 per cent worldwide over a period of six years, according to a report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute published this summer.

This issue of the lack of females running businesses is tackled in our CMO Strategy cover story. We analysed the world’s most valuable brands, according to BrandZ, and discovered quite a different situation there. “We have valued the top 100 global brands and discovered that 77 have a woman on the board,” explains Peter Walshe, global BrandZ director. These include H&M, Wells Fargo, IBM, Google and Pepsi.

So, let me get this right… The world’s most valuable brands have women on their boards but the FTSE 100 is struggling to find any women executives? We ask women who have held top marketing roles at brands such as Microsoft, Unilever, Krispy Kreme and Xerox how they have broken the mould.

We didn’t want to tackle such an issue like women in the boardroom without being part of the solution. This week’s cover story is a profile of Blair Christie, CMO of technology brand Cisco. Regardless of gender, she has an enormous job to do with a business that was the world’s most valuable company in the 1990s.

Christie has to navigate the Cisco brand, which was an official Olympics partner this summer, through difficult economic times. It has never recovered its value at the heights of the internet bubble and Christie must give the brand new meaning for an era when technology has become a standard part of consumer and business lives.

Cisco isn’t the only organisation finding that its role in its consumers’ lives has changed over time. You can watch a video demonstrating how Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) completely overhauled its way of operating following an extensive research project into everything from who it should target to how it should behave towards different customers. It’s a fascinating insight into change management.

Let’s just hope that the next issue to see some serious change is the lack of women running and managing businesses. Failing to have women at the top is hurting the bottom line.

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