Achieving Diversity in Leadership … One Step at a Time


Achieving Diversity in Leadership … One Step at a Time

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reported that, in 2010, women represented 47% of the total workforce. Female small-business owners grew 20%, while their male counterparts grew 6%.
The DOL also said that 57% of entering university first-year students were women, while 43% were men.
And here comes the inevitable punch line: In similar industries, retail and real estate, female sales professionals make, on average, 63% of their male counterparts’ while producing at the same level.
In my own anecdotal research, I reviewed 17 parking operators’ executive-profile web pages: Of the 102 available positions, women hold 8, with a majority of them in administrative roles and none with the title of CEO. (Obviously, this finding is not unique to the parking industry: Only 4% of the companies on the 2013 Fortune 500 list female CEOs.)
Clearly, this is a gap, I believe, of which many of us in the parking industry already have some degree of awareness. This realization played a key role in the founding of Women In Parking (WIP) in fall 2011. While the organization’s long-term vision is to work toward closing this gap, we members recognize that our best route toward achievement is to progress one step at a time, and our year-over-year supporting goals have to be centered in networking and education for women and men alike.
Recently, Harvard Business Review interviewed 24 CEOs globally who had established diversity in their respective organizations as a priority and were asked to identify the common barriers women faced internally when trying to earn a “C-Suite” position. While the responses varied, seven of the CEOs cited, from their individual experiences, women’s exclusion from internal networking opportunities.
Simply put, men and women typically seek their gender counterpart for company, insight and promotion – the more men in an organization, the more likely men can learn of and capitalize on opportunities and advancement.
Women in these organizations can have a disadvantage just by sheer numbers, thus limiting their ability to sharpen their own networking
skills internally.
WIP provides a number of key member benefits to help support
this potential missed opportunity. It hosts a networking event at every national parking trade show where women and men alike connect, learn more about respective organizations and establish relationships for potential business opportunities.
The organization also provides a Mentoring Program through which it facilitates mentoring partnerships between emerging industry leaders and senior professionals, allowing the less tenured individual to have candid conversations with a mentor on a regularly scheduled basis. As imagined, this particular program has become widely popular, and a second round of mentoring pairs is to be launched in the coming months.
WIP also recently established its first international chapter, with the Parking Association of Australia, and going into 2014, members from both countries will have access to their international peers to share experiences and insights, thus broadening the collective spectrum on business acumen and personal development.
A brain research study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, showed the female brain having nearly 10 times more “white matter” than the male’s, and the male brain having 6.5 times more “gray matter.”
The significance? Gray matter characterizes the information-processing center, while white matter represents the ability to integrate disparate bits of information. (And if you’re wondering, the same study concluded that neither brain profile proved superior to the other in terms of intelligence.)
Read: Women and men think differently.
When we work in concert, we actually complement and broaden our abilities to process information and make decisions. Which is probably the biggest advantage that diversity can offer any organization.
Women In Parking’s efforts in educational member benefits is actually rooted in this realization, that the more diverse we are in our work lives, the higher the tide is for all to enjoy.
WIP circulates a quarterly newsletter designed to provide practical insight from the most senior leaders in the parking industry and quarterly webinars to equip members with information to help them advance both their institutional knowledge and personal development.

Inaugural Women In Parking Convention
In March, through the continuing support of Parking Today and Publisher-Editor John Van Horn, Women In Parking will host its inaugural one-day convention in conjunction with the2014 Parking Industry Exhibition (PIE). This presents probably the greatest opportunity, in terms of value, for female and male parking professionals to connect and learn from both peers and industry experts.
The keynote speaker for the WIP conference – Julie Winterich-Knox, an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC – will lead an interactive discussion on current gender-based trends, the biases they can lead to in terms of decision-making and the direct linkage within the corporate culture so that attendees can leverage these insights into their everyday decision-making process.
The WIP conference’s closing speaker – Melissa Raczak-Hulst, Director, Business Consulting at Deloitte, Netherlands – will provide an engaging talk on “Authentic Leadership” and how leading others from the individual’s core values and the company’s cultural norms can actually contribute to the organization’s overall financial success.
Speaking of which, if one wonders how this theme of diversity in the workplace plays to the bottom line, consider this final statistic:
From 2008 through 2010, McKinsey & Co. conducted a study of 180 publicly traded companies to determine the potential correlation between diverse senior management teams and financial performance (“Is there a payoff from top-team diversity?” April 2012). For those organizations with executive team diversity, returns on equity were, on average, 53% higher and EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) were 14% higher than the other organizations in the study.

Becoming a member of Women In Parking is as easy as going to its website ( and registering. Taking advantage of WIP membership benefits and being a part of the organization’s mission will contribute toward meaningful change and intrinsic value at both the individual and company level across the parking industry. – Colleen M. Niese

Colleen M. Niese, Chairperson of Women In Parking,
is a Principal at The Marlyn Group. Contact her at

Article contributed by:
Colleen M. Niese
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