Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits through Gender-Balanced Leadership

Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits through Gender-Balanced Leadership

by Melissa Greenwell
Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits through Gender-Balanced Leadership

Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits through Gender-Balanced Leadership

by Melissa Greenwell


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If our executive suites and boardrooms aren’t gender-balanced, we’re throwing money away!
The shortage of women in boardrooms and executive suites means companies are missing out on the best solutions, products, and services—and on having the type of workplace that will attract the best workers. Gender imbalance is a serious problem in companies, and the cost is significant—but it is a problem we can solve. Melissa Greenwell challenges leaders in a no-blame, logical approach to bring more female talent into leadership positions for one simple reason: Their companies will make more money if they do. 
Leaders of gender-balanced companies profit from differences in the female brain responsible for questioning, debate, idea-generation, and problem solving, and those companies see increased performance and healthier strategies and tactics. Greenwell deftly demystifies gender imbalance, making it a topic we can discuss without fearing perceptions of favoritism or sexism.
Money on the Table is destined to become the go-to book for CEOs and their leadership teams, boards of directors, and top HR leaders, with a clear place in talent acquisition and engagement strategies as well. Greenwell supports her thesis with business cases, interviews with top business leaders, and the brain science that explains why women and men think, communicate, and problem-solve differently. Key insights, explanations, vocabulary, and action plans complete the book along with a compelling list of ten rules that women should abide by to fulfill their part of “getting a seat at the table.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626343696
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 01/03/2017
Pages: 184
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Melissa Greenwell is executive vice president and chief operating officer for national retailer Finish Line Inc. She has had an extensive career as a C-suite executive and trusted advisor with a “seat at the table.” Previously, Greenwell held the position of chief human resources officer at Finish Line. She is an excellent example of a female senior leader who stepped out of the boundaries of a support role into an operations role that is key to driving revenue for a public company. She has spent her career partnering with executive teams to create people strategies that support business objectives in organization design, performance and rewards, succession planning, leadership development, and employee engagement.
Greenwell is also a certified executive coach who helps women and men understand how they can leverage natural strengths to identify and make behavioral changes that help them succeed as senior leaders. Helping leaders understand how they can affect and leverage the perceptions they create to get others to follow is central to her model.
Greenwell has received numerous awards and recognitions for executive and community leadership. Beyond developing high-potential leaders, she shares her time with several not-for-profit organizations, including those focused on developing aspiring female leaders.

Read an Excerpt

Money on the Table

How to Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership

By Melissa Greenwell

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2017 Melissa Greenwell, LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-369-6



* * *

I AM CURRENTLY THE EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND chief operating officer for The Finish Line, Inc., a national specialty athletic shoe retailer. I'm proud to say that Finish Line gets it. When we began our journey of creating a more diverse and flexible workplace, there was no debate within the executive team about changing policies and practices to build our female talent pipeline and retain Millennial talent. In fact, we questioned having any limits on our employees, such as how long a new mother could have a reduced work schedule or their length of time off. We moved to a flexible, unlimited time-off program, giving new dads paid time off to spend with their children as well, and we told mothers they could come back to work on a flexible schedule of their choosing for as long as they wanted. We've kept many talented women we would otherwise have lost and have increased retention and engagement of the young men in our organization. Most importantly, the why was communicated from the top. Our chairman and former CEO, Glenn Lyon, took every opportunity to talk to the members of our organization about the importance of making a cultural change in order to get and keep the best talent. It was personal because it was about what was good for the people, which he believed translated to mean it was good for the business.

In the course of my career, however, it's been obvious that many CEOs don't share these sentiments. And, in fact, my own journey to understanding how I could fit into and contribute to the business world was anything but quick and obstacle free. My own experiences and what I learned along the way have helped shape this book.

It all started in first grade. Actually, it was the very first day of first grade — Monday, September 10, 1973. I sat in the front row of my new class in my new uniform and listened intently as Sister Anne Marie introduced herself. She was quite intimidating. She stood tall and erect and wore the traditional habit that most nuns wore back then. As soon as she finished describing her rules and expectations, she moved to a topic that was perfect for first graders: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" As you might expect, some of the boys immediately shouted, "A fireman!" "Batman!" "A football player!" Looking at one another, the girls remained silent, saying nothing because it was impolite to speak before being invited to. Sister asked for a show of hands and said, "Which of you would like to be a nun ... like me?"

Many hands went up, perhaps out of intimidation or because the girls thought that wearing a habit seemed like fun. Not me. I was the outlier. When Sister asked me why I didn't want to be a nun, I replied, "Because I want to be a doctor or a policeman." Sister glared down at me and said, "Young ladies do not become those things. Maybe you can be a nurse or a teacher." The conversation turned sour when I added, "and because I don't want to wear the ugly shoes that Sisters have to wear." Saying nothing, Sister walked over to me and stood on my feet until I thought my ankles might break. She then said quietly, "I think your shoes are ugly, too." Not another word came out of my mouth that day.

I went home, unable to forget the incident. After dinner, I spent the entire evening in my room coloring my brandnew brown leather shoes with my beautiful permanent green marker. My mother, who was quite unhappy about what I was doing to my shoes, angrily told me I would be wearing them to school the next day, which, of course, was my plan all along. As soon as I walked into the classroom, I could see that Sister noticed them. I asked her if she liked my shoes "this color." She scowled and simply said, "Hmm." That was enough for me to feel like I'd won the debate, which really hadn't started out about the shoes, but about what I could or could not be when I grew up. Little did I know this would just be the beginning of my lifelong conversation about being placed in a gender-based role.

I grew up as part of a large family, one of seven children, on a farm in rural Indiana. I had five brothers and one sister. Given the number of us, there was a significant age difference between the oldest and youngest. I was third in the pecking order, and as the oldest female, my spot in line came with some responsibility for caring for my younger siblings.

My mother and father had very specific roles. My father took care of everything outside the house, and my mother took care of everything inside. By default, my role largely meant helping my mother. And there were times I was quite unhappy about that. Running a farm meant there were lots of things to do outside, and I demanded to learn some of those tasks, including how to take care of livestock, how to run farm equipment, and how to fix things. When the mower needed to be fixed or my car broke down, I demanded that my father show me how to repair it myself instead of doing it for me. I was quite proud when he'd come back to inspect my work and not have to make any adjustments aside from perhaps further tightening a few bolts.

In addition to farming, my father also worked on and off in the auto industry. It was a tough time economically, and my father had started farming when a long-term layoff from the factory was inevitable. That was the only other thing he knew how to do; he had grown up farming. And although the years he was employed at the factory were more financially stable for the family, it was quite a load for him to run a farm and work long shifts at the same time. That's where the children came in. We all had our share of chores to do every day. And in farming, there is never a day off.

Weather can make this kind of work most unpleasant; it wreaks havoc on a farmer's life. There's too much or not enough rain, unseasonal temperatures, and early or late frosts, and the years of physically challenging work in the elements take their toll on the human body. Breaking up ice in the animals' water tanks when it was two degrees below zero and working in the garden on hot, humid August days convinced me I never wanted to do that for a living. While I have great respect for the farmers of the world, I decided while working on my family's farm that I would develop the means to support farmers rather than be one. I would have a successful career doing something else, something less physically demanding and more financially stable, with some occasional days off.

I admit it. I wanted more creature comforts and luxury. I wanted a house that wasn't cold in the winter and hot in the summer. I wanted a nice car instead the old Volkswagen with a rusted floor that I drove as a teenager. I wanted air conditioning. I wanted nice clothes so I wouldn't be embarrassed wearing my cousins' decade-old hand-me-downs.

Even in my small-town environment, fashion mattered. There was only so much you could do to modify hip-hugging, bell-bottom jeans into something that resembled the Gloria Vanderbilt and Lee jeans all the other girls were wearing. My only prom dress fell into the same category; my mother tried her best to convert a 1970s baby-blue-and-white lace dress into something appropriate for 1985. It was that or nothing.

As unhappy as I was with some of my circumstances, I was not blind to the fact that I had it better than many. There was an Amish community in the area, and their lifestyle took hardship a step further — no automobiles, no phones, and no electricity. As I drove past buggies full of Amish families in my rusty Volkswagen, I was reminded that life could be much different and that many people were happy with far less than I had. I still wanted something different. I wanted the freedom to explore the world and learn new things, and that meant leaving the environment I grew up in.

That day came as soon as I graduated from high school. With no financial resources, I could not immediately attend college after high school. But college was a goal, and I knew I had to figure out how I was going to get there. For the moment, that meant getting a job. I had taken some business classes in high school to learn typing and shorthand, and I was quickly able to line up a job. I was thrilled. I would be moving to the largest town near my small town, which was home to about 35,000 people. That was the big city compared to my rural community of a few hundred. I packed up my car after our graduation open house and moved to my first apartment, with all the linens and dishes my mother could spare.

The professional work world was exciting. My job as a secretary in a law firm came with a nice paycheck and an opportunity to meet people I'd had no exposure to — lawyers, doctors, and owners of all kinds of businesses. I had money to pay my rent, get a nicer car, and still put some away. I also had time to start college classes in the evening. There was only one problem: I hated my job. Spending hours and hours behind a word processor, answering calls, and trying to figure out how to navigate the law library was much more daunting than I'd ever imagined. I was terrible at shorthand, so I took notes I couldn't read, which required me to recreate dictated letters from memory. I was typing documents I didn't understand, and the instruction I got from a senior attorney who had a pipe in his mouth at all times was incomprehensible. I began to arrive at work every morning with enough angst to keep me in the restroom for the first thirty minutes and kill my confidence for the rest of the day. I then spent as much time as possible making extra pots of coffee for the office to delay the walk to my desk.

My decision to do something else was hastened by a fall down the short flight of steps from the legal library. I was in such a hurried tizzy to deliver a stack of legal reference books to my boss that I caught my heel on a step and tumbled to the bottom of the stairs. The racket from my stack of heavy books hitting the floor, followed by my landing in a crumpled heap, was enough to bring everyone out of their offices to see what the noise was all about. As my boss (still with a pipe in his mouth) picked me up off the floor and handed me the shoes that had flown off, he said, "Well, dear, you don't have to run." That was it. Decision made. My boss was leaving for vacation in a few weeks, and I would not be there when he returned.

My next job was selling cars. I had an interest in the field and already had some knowledge because my father worked for the auto industry and was always talking about cars. I think he was surprised and proud when I made this career move. One of the law firm's clients was the owner of a dealership. After several conversations, he offered me a job.

At first, I would go to the dealership every evening after my secretarial job to watch instructional tapes and study brochures with specifications on the entire line of Buicks. The owner, Jerry, would quiz me until I got the answers right. Then, he started teaching me how to approach customers. I would sit in the showroom waiting area and observe what all of the other salesmen (yes, all men) did. I listened to them as they answered the phone and placed cold calls to customers. I immediately picked up on how they built a rapport. Of course, being a young female in this business was unusual. I could see the skepticism on the faces of my more mature potential customers as they asked me about a particular model of car. I soon realized I would have to alter my approach in order to be credible and trusted. For me, that turned out to be the secret.

The business was really more about the people than the cars we were selling. It was about getting to know the customers, their circumstances, and what they were interested in. I learned that the biggest part of selling was establishing trust. I also became intrigued by the competitive nature of the business, but what really motivated me was competition with myself. I excelled both at establishing relationships and constantly besting my own accomplishments. This brief part of my career lasted two years and provided a solid launchpad for what was to come.

The next stop in my career was as a customer service representative at Alcoa. While selling cars was fun, it required long hours and working weekends, and it was impinging on my ability to go to school, which I still believed was critical. I actually took a pay cut to have a normal Monday-through-Friday, eight-to-five job, which afforded me the time to attend classes and study. The other bonus of changing careers was a tuition-assistance program, which enabled me to complete my education without the burden of tremendous debt. Simultaneously, I got a real education in business. And while I had clearly already received good mentoring, the kind of mentoring I received as a customer service representative was on another level.

Less than a year into my new assignment, I was asked if I might want to move to another town, where the company had acquired a new division. I would have the opportunity to be part of growing a business from the ground up. The prospect was very exciting and very scary. I was young, didn't know anyone at this new division, and didn't know anyone in that town. While I was busy listing all of the reasons I might not be ready to take on this new assignment, one of my bosses asked me to give him all of the reasons I might be successful. That conversation was one of the biggest turning points in my career. Still in my early twenties, I had just received the best advice, not only for my career but also for life in general.

I stayed at that company for almost ten years, and then I moved on to other exciting challenges: a significant stop at a software technology company, where I had some of the most fun of my career, followed by positions in financial services companies, a distribution company, and finally, a large specialty retailer. I've had the benefit of many mentors — too many to name. But I can tell you that most of them, including the two that so positively affected me earliest in my career, were men.

Because I rose through to the management ranks quickly, I've spent the last few decades working with mostly male management teams. At the executive level, they've been almost exclusively men. Looking back, I realize that my behavior was crafted so I'd be an effective member of these mostly male teams. I believe I was not completely comfortable being myself, being authentic, until later in my career. This shift might have had something to do with turning forty. I think something happens to women around that age: You're just not willing to accommodate other people as much as you once did. You stop caring about others' judgments because you realize life is just too damn short to not be yourself. You also realize you are just not as effective when you're not bringing your whole self to work. Not to mention, it's not as much fun.

There were a handful of executive-level women who were also mentors to me, whether they knew it or not. From them, I learned a new way of approaching challenges. These women showed a more caring way of dealing with people, exhibited expert listening skills, and brought a level of rationalism and realism to conversations, which I often observed to be missing in others. They were comfortable in their own skins, not bending to imitate the behaviors of their male counterparts. They also did not shy away from talking about women's issues or interests. They were supportive to subordinate women raising families by providing flexibility when it was needed because they saw the value of keeping that talent. They demanded that the workplace include spaces for women who needed facilities to nurse new babies. They hosted wine and book clubs in their homes, coordinated outings for professional women, and supported conferences and professional development for them. For me, this was the support system I'd never had.

On the flip side, early in my career, I encountered women who were competitive with other women, critical of females who might get in their way, and sometimes downright mean. These women would play extreme politics to get ahead, even if it meant shortchanging someone else's career for their own benefit, or not giving responsibility to someone who might show them up. Their behavior made me ask myself, "How am I supposed to act? Is that what it's going to take to get ahead?" I believe now that what drove their behavior was the lack of senior-level jobs for women. If you wanted to get one, you had better be willing to compete for it.

Of course, we are all shaped by our experiences. The fact that I grew up with mostly men in my family and have worked largely with men as peers during my career has, without a doubt, influenced the way I interact with people professionally. Successful people learn to communicate with people the way they want to be communicated with. Some of my male mentors wanted me to show more excitement and anger at times, like they did. That's how they communicated with each other. I tried. That style didn't work for me. The successful women I learned from did not communicate that way either.


Excerpted from Money on the Table by Melissa Greenwell. Copyright © 2017 Melissa Greenwell, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue xi

Part I The Argument 1

1 My Story 3

2 The Value of Gender-Balanced Leadership 15

3 The Interviews: His View, Her View 27

4 Hardwiring: His Brain, Her Brain 47

5 The Right Leadership 59

6 Where Are the Women? 71

7 Women and the Tech Industry-A Special Case 81

8 The Root Cause of Imbalance 99

Part II The Actions 105

9 Its Up to You 107

10 Ten Steps You Can Take to Build Gender-Balanced Leadership 111

11 It's Up to You, Too…Ten Rules for Women Who Want to Lead 133

12 Get On with It! 157

Acknowledgments 163

Endnotes 169

Author Q & A 177

About the Author 183

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