Guest Articles

March 4

Verónica Lawson Vilches

Aligning Empowerment with Profitability: Three Business Practices That Support Both Women and the Bottom Line

Women are more career-focused than ever, but women’s representation in corporate leadership is not keeping pace. A recent study conducted by McKinsey & Company in partnership with LeanIn.Org found that women’s representation in the corporate C-suite is the highest it has ever been in the U.S. and Canada, increasing from 17% to 28% since 2015. Women’s representation at the vice president and senior vice president levels has also improved significantly in that period. However, 28% is still a far cry from true parity, and the report also found “lagging progress in the middle of the pipeline — and a persistent underrepresentation of women of color.” And in most emerging markets, the levels of women’s representation in these leadership positions is typically far lower.

As awareness of this issue grows across the global business sector, it’s important to recognize that empowering women in the workplace shouldn’t be viewed merely as a social goal. Instead, companies should see it as a strategic game-changer: Businesses that are open to diversity on their leadership teams are not just ticking a moral checkbox, they’re seizing a competitive edge.

“You can focus on women and it doesn’t have to be something done from charity or a social impact standpoint, it can be a viable business decision to pursue gender equality and put women in positions to succeed,” says Sameer Somal, co-founder of Girl Power Talk and CEO of Blue Ocean Technology, its sister company.

Founded in 2018 with a business model based on women’s empowerment, Girl Power Talk works to elevate young women (and others) to become global leaders, providing learning and mentorship that instills them with soft skills and technical knowledge, and connecting them with international work opportunities. The article below will explore three ways in which Girl Power Talk’s business practices open doors for women, empower them, and contribute to social change and advancement — a holistic approach that can serve as a blueprint for businesses committed to making a lasting impact on women in emerging markets.


Empowering young women by hiring them for who they are

At the heart of Girl Power Talk’s success lies a transformative approach to talent acquisition that holds valuable lessons for organizations seeking to empower women. The company leverages a stable of employees with multiple skills, which it contracts out to clients around the world, depending on the project. The process of building these teams begins with a 25 question application. But instead of talking about where they have worked, what skills qualify them for a job, or other general terms relevant to their career and education, these questions lead candidates through a self-reflective journey about their career aspirations. This helps provide a foundation that enables Girl Power Talk to build a diverse and empowered team.

Questions like “What is your biggest fear and why?” reveal more than just facts, figures and other banal job application details. They can help shed light on a candidate’s mindset and their ability to confront certain challenges as they move through their careers. “You have to be creative and find a way to find people with high potential,” says Somal, the mind behind the questionnaire.

To that end, Girl Power Talk uses the application questions to identify candidates with enthusiasm, character, investment in themselves, curiosity and discipline. It then refers successful applicants to a two-part interview with members of its management team. In emails leading up to the interview, candidates are sent dozens of articles on Girl Power Talk and the core issues it is dealing with, and in the interview, the company works to find the people who have done their reading. Candidates who are motivated won’t back away from this initial investment of time, if they feel like Girl Power Talk is the right fit for them.

“You need to be patient and that’s a challenge, but by doing so, you know that by finding the right player, you can be more productive,” says Somal.

The onboarding experience exemplifies the business’ commitment to unity and diversity. Successful candidates’ responses to the initial questionnaire are shared among team members, enabling a collective effort to welcome new additions and cultivate a culture of collaboration. Through this approach, Girl Power Talk has turned what is often a rote, impersonal HR screening process into an organizational strength, leveraging it to lay the groundwork for ongoing teamwork and collaboration.


Hiring and supporting diverse staff

By 2030, Gen Z will make up around 30% of the U.S. workforce (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). And Pew Research Center’s analysis of Census Bureau data finds that it is already the most racially and ethnically diverse generation. Outside the U.S., the global workforce is also becoming increasingly diverse, not just because of migration and changing birth rates, but also due to the globalization of business.

Connecting these diverse young workers to career opportunities offers benefits to both employers and workers. “Large youth populations in India and other countries face a shortage of opportunities, which are often limited to mundane work,” says Somal. “Large Fortune 500 companies in emerging markets underutilize untapped creative potential and innovation. Being able to create a company that is consciously focused on tapping that potential is … viable.”

Diverse hiring has an economic impact that often goes unnoticed by businesses. According to McKinsey, the financial returns of diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their industry’s national median. As the report puts it, this is due to the competitive advantage these companies gain as their focus on diversity attracts top talent with greater cultural fluency, enhancing customer orientation and boosting employee satisfaction and decision making, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.

However, in a diverse company, it is crucial to be mindful of potential challenges, particularly when it comes to cultural differences and women’s expectations regarding their roles and beliefs. “There does need to be a grassroots initiative when engaging a diverse team to reach its true potential,” Somal explains. “When you are inclusive, you have more women in professional environments — and especially in the culture of emerging markets, they can be a bit more reserved. So there is an acute need for cultural sensitivity and conscious inclusion.”

He offers a key example of this type of inclusivity: “If there is an important meeting scheduled, ask everyone’s opinion — even if that means following up individually, or even preempting the group discussion with one-on-one conversations that can be referenced to guide the group dialogue.” Though this sort of approach can require additional time and effort, it allows a company to develop a workforce that is fully able to power its ongoing growth. “There are definitely challenges in building a place that people are connected to, one that invests in them and empowers them with flexibility and creativity,” Somal says. “You still have to manage a business, client expectations and growth mandates. But while this trajectory has been slower for us, we have a stronger foundation for more exponential and multiplicative growth in the future.”


Leveraging global teamwork to shape careers

The sun never sets on global businesses like Girl Power Talk and its clients. There are many challenges that come from managing teams in different time zones, but there are also major advantages — including the ability to offer 24/7 support and communication with clients, and the dynamic environment that comes from having international teams coordinating on projects worldwide.

When a company has a diverse team dispersed around the world, it’s essential to coordinate closely and have open communication about the status of ongoing projects, initiatives and deadlines. But this challenge is outweighed by the benefits of meeting the changing needs of a global clientele, and exposing employees to diverse international cultures.

This exposure to new cultures and viewpoints can help shape people’s careers and open their minds. At Girl Power Talk, it is part of a broader effort to introduce its team members to new people, and new possibilities. Working with their counterparts in other countries and cultures gives these team members an opportunity to learn a bit more about each other, growing their relationship and building their mutual empathy — and their effectiveness as a team.

In many cases, this can lead employees to develop new professional capabilities and even evolve into a different career path — something Girl Power Talk supports. The company believes that allowing employees to have this sort of control of their careers is important for maximizing adaptability and innovation. It’s also a key part of boosting employee retention, as a 2018 study by LinkedIn Learning found that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career.

Through approaches like those discussed above, Girl Power Talk is working not only to boost gender parity, but to provide an example of how companies can build women’s empowerment and other inclusive principles into the core of their business and HR practices. These types of approaches show how the business sector can move from talking about empowerment, to taking actual transformative actions that align with profitability.


Verónica Lawson Vilches is a multilingual PR and content development specialist and the founder of The Word on Record.

Photo courtesy of nVent Communications.




Education, Social Enterprise
employment, gender equality, innovation, skill development