updated 4/6/2011 1:47:06 PM ET 2011-04-06T17:47:06

PALM BEACH, Fla., April 6, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Wall Street Journal Executive Task Force for Women in the Economy concluded its inaugural meeting today with the identification of priorities for business and government to address urgent issues that affect not only women and their professional potential, but also companies and their ability to harness the economic opportunities offered by this vital segment of the workforce.

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Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo, and Florida Governor Rick Scott closed the conference, commenting on the action items adopted by the Task Force.

The plans drafted and voted by members centered on the importance of programs to train and encourage women to take leadership positions that involve P&L expertise; the promotion of women based on potential; importance of mentorship and sponsorship programs; the role of media; executive accountability and talent management; and early-age training on gender equity and leadership skills.

The meeting gathered nearly 200 leading men and women at the Four Season Resort in Palm Beach, Fla. Through panels and structured working sessions, and driven by original research from McKinsey & Company, Task Force members focused on the themes of "Industry" and "Career Stage."

During the "Industry" sessions, members discussed and analyzed trends, initiatives and the outlook for women to frame the priorities, risks and opportunities facing business, government and the economy. Voted as the top five priorities, in order, are:

  • P&L Leadership: Companies should establish a program to train and encourage women to take leadership positions that involve P&L expertise specifically and enable them to transition into these roles. Companies should establish specific targets and incentives to this end.
     
  • Leverage C-Suite Power: Hold the CEO accountable for hiring women in the top jobs with equal pay. Use metrics and scorecards to track women's promotions and positions and disclose if women aren't promoted, and explain why not. Require a diverse slate of candidates for high level jobs. Expect a balance of men and women at the decision-making table, including the board.
     
  • Promote Women on Potential: Women should be equally considered for promotion on their potential as men are. Companies need to identify talented women early and nurture them. Employers should create incentives for female sponsorship, tying success to mechanisms such as compensation, goal achievement and performance evaluation.
     
  • Mentors and Sponsors: Develop more industry-wide and company-specific programs for both mentorship and sponsorship. Tie sponsorship goals to pay or career advancement. Such programs should include succession planning and co-mentoring, which allows advice to flow from junior to senior levels. Involve men and women.
     
  • Strong Talent Management Programs: Recruit outside normal channels and leverage diverse networks. Take risks on high-potential women by rotating them through different positions and giving them exposure to senior leadership. Provide training in effective communication and strategic thinking. Foster an entrepreneurial culture, including a more flexible work/life environment.

During the "Career Stage" sessions, members discussed the career lifecycle for women, ranking the top priorities, in order, as:

  • Talk to Action:It Starts With Us: Leverage the power of women at the conference. Members should deliver the key messages of the conference with their own companies and industries. McKinsey could create a standard set of materials, including an executive summary, talking points and questions for members to drive action. Report back next year on what's been accomplished.
     
  • The Role of Media: The media should report the business case for women on boards and in the executive suite, domestically and globally. The Wall Street Journal should take the lead with continuing coverage. The Journal should also use the CEO Council to highlight these issues.
     
  • Create a CEO Commission: Create a commission that identifies, drives and publishes the results of transformative, internal changes to increase women at the top. The group would discuss the possibility of setting public targets for advancing women in senior management. Company scorecards and metrics will be published. An initiative could be led by a variety of private-sector organizations and would include CEO volunteers from some of the nation's leading companies.
     
  • Top Team Accountability: Tie top team compensation and performance evaluations to results related to moving mid-level women forward. Set specific diversity targets. Executive committee and the board should monitor progress. Include human resources issues in board-level discussions.
     
  • Teach Gender Equity and Leadership: Provide training on gender bias to parents and instructors, draft a curriculum and teach students about gender equity alongside other social issues. Work to ease transitions in the education process at key drop-off points for girls. Start early teaching leadership skills in schools, along with related topics such as networking and negotiations. Reevaluate the core curriculum in all subjects to focus on gender equality and leadership.

The full Task Force findings and priorities will be published in a special worldwide report in The Wall Street Journal and on WSJ.com on Mon., April 11. For more information please go to http://www.womeninecon.wsj.com .

Executive Task Force members and featured members included Robert Zoellick, president of World Bank Group; Sandra Day O'Connor, U.S. Supreme Court Justice (Retired); Wei Sun Christianson, co-CEO of China, Morgan Stanley; Sallie Krawcheck of Bank of America; Julie Louise Gerberding of Merck & Co.; Debra Lee of BET Networks; Marissa Mayer of Google; and Geena Davis, founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

About The Wall Street Journal

Founded in 1889, The Wall Street Journal is the world's leading business publication. Boasting more than two million subscribers, the Journal is the largest newspaper by total paid circulation and has the largest individually paid circulation of the top 25 U.S. newspapers. The Wall Street Journal franchise, with a global audience of 3.8 million, also comprises The Wall Street Journal Asia, The Wall Street Journal Europe and The Wall Street Journal Online at WSJ.com, the leading provider of business and financial news and analysis on the Web with more than one million subscribers and 26 million users per month. WSJ.com is the flagship site of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, which also includes MarketWatch.com, Barrons.com and AllThingsD.com. The Wall Street Journal Radio Network services news and information to more than 375 radio stations in the U.S. The Journal holds 33 Pulitzer Prizes for outstanding journalism, and, in 2009, was ranked No. 1 in BtoB's Media Power 50 for the 10th consecutive year.

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CONTACT: Media Contact:
         Ashley S. Huston
         Dow Jones & Company
         (212) 426-2025
         ashley.huston@dowjones.com

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