Liz Doyle presented her research on best practices in corporate leadership at the Ohio University Student Expo April 9, 2015. Photo by Rob Hardin/Ohio University
Two years ago, Liz Doyle looked around her classroom and realized that there were few women. It’s an observation that sparked action. Today the Ohio University student is the founder and past president of Ohio Women in Business (OWIB) and has pursued her thesis on best practices for increasing gender diversity in corporate America.
After compiling a list of 12 companies with the best practices that place women in corporate leadership, identifying those practices and interviewing human resources representatives and female managers, Doyle presented her findings at the 2015 Ohio University Student Expo on April 9.
“At the entry level it’s 50/50, but as you progress (through) the rungs of organizational hierarchy … the numbers of women are almost cut in half at every level,” Doyle says. “They just shrink. It’s a pyramid. Fifty percent at the bottom at entry level, and at the top as far as Fortune 500 CEOs, the number is less than 5 percent.”
For her research, Doyle cross-referenced published lists to determine the 12 companies that best strive to place women in their corporate leadership. She studied these companies and interviewed their members to find common threads of their practices for any company to follow.
“I’m making a list of best practices that I can hand to any company in any industry at any time of any size and say, ‘If you do these things, you’ll be supporting your female population and you’ll be putting women in leadership,” Doyle says.
The three best practices she’s identified so far: Accounting for diversity as an asset during hiring conversations; providing role models and mentors to new female staff members; and fostering a corporate culture that promotes a work/life balance to undo the dichotomy of career versus motherhood.
Of the 12 companies Doyle researched, some of them are household names, including IBM, State Farm, General Mills, Xerox Corp. and Johnson & Johnson.
As she works to increase diversity on a national scale, Doyle also is doing so here in Athens. In 2014, Doyle started OWIB as a means to help attract women into business careers at Ohio University, develop them professionally and launch them into the corporate world. Her goal is for the program to reach into area high schools and work from there to support women entering into the business world.
She’d like to help boost the numbers of female students in the College of Business, which currently is 29 percent female while the university as a whole is just over 50 percent female, according to the Ohio University Office of Institutional Research.
“If you think about the companies that are coming to the career fair on campus, those recruiters have diversity quotas too,” Doyle says.
Tammy Reynolds, executive-in-residence for the College of Business, is not only Doyle’s research adviser, but also a cofounder of OWIB and her role model.
“Liz is just a really high energy young lady, very driven,” Reynolds says. “When I first met her, I don’t think she truly knew what she was capable of. I think she’s just stepped up and shined in the last year.”
Reynolds notes that College of Business Dean Hugh Sherman and the college’s executive team also have been very supportive of the OWIB.
Doyle hopes that her work will improve women’s representation in business both in Athens and for the corporate world at large.
“Instead of being victimized, we’re trying to be proactive and empowered and acknowledge that there’s something we can do, and something the system can do, and that we can educate the people around us,” Doyle says.