CAbi, A Great Example for Tech Companies Seeking Leadership Diversity

I cannot count the number of times this year I have read, “If we could only find more women to apply” or my favorite “If women were more ready to lead we would promote them” or “Where are all the women leaders?”  

Tech companies or any corporation looking to keep or attract more women leaders should examine CAbi as an example of how to develop an effective, rewarding and diverse culture.

Since 2001, there are now nearly 3,500 Women Consultants who have helped CAbi grow into the largest social selling clothing company in the United States.

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Business leaders may believe that they cannot benefit or borrow strategies from a company that sells clothing; however, I beg to differ; a product is a product is a product.  Not only is CAbi a successful product business, it also offers entrepreneurial women the opportunity to start and grow their own business.

Many of the CAbi consultants, which are primarily women, take this job on as their second career.  It is not surprising to meet a policewoman, a surgeon, a teacher, a business owner, an office assistant, a caretaker or a software sales manager at one of their sales conferences.

Why would women chose to add a 100% commission job on top of their already packed schedule?

From my quick view into the world of CAbi – the company, the business of selling clothes, is about something bigger than the sale, and more significant than the individual woman. CAbi bases their business on the platform of building meaningful relationships among their peers and with their customers. 

Women seek value and relationships from their work which was echoed in this recent post by Nancy Householder Hauge, “Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?”:

Are They Successful?

Many of the women that do not hold sales jobs by day, are generating multimillion dollar sales results for CAbi while recruiting, building teams and creating enough revenue for their households to make it worthwhile.  This type of success seems common for many women that join CAbi.

What skills do these women possess? Skills that recruiters and executives desire: vision, leadership, management, team building, collaboration and execution.

You might imagine that the most successful of the women with CAbi hold similar leadership roles at their day job. You would be wrong. Many of the CAbi women I have met that have developed teams; do not have the same leadership opportunities within their day job.  Many I asked said to me something that echoes these statements:

“I’ve applied for leadership roles but have not been given the opportunity to lead a project or a team.”

“I haven’t been asked to lead at my day job.”

Or my favorite, “my leadership team says “ I am not leadership material”

Some of these same women said that they hope to make the jump from their corporate jobs as they build their CAbi business, which supports NCWIT’s Women in IT: The Facts 2009:

According to a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, 74 percent of women in technology report “loving their work,” yet these women leave their careers at a staggering rate: 56 percent of technical women leave at the “mid-level” point just when the loss of their talent is most costly to companies.

Culture is What Culture Does

Following are some of my favorite quotes from Kimberly Inskeep’s, CAbi President, keynote address at their bi-annual meetings. By the way, all women are expected to attend the conferences on their own dime and happily do so:

  • .       The power of WE achieves significantly more than the power of ME
  • .       Being part of something bigger than ourselves gives us life significance
  • .       Don’t miss the opportunity to do something bigger than yourself
  • .       Join a collective celebrate and grow together

What Does Your Company Culture Cultivate?

Many corporations talk about having a collaborative culture but how many follow through on a daily basis? When times are tough or bonuses are due, does sales and profitability trump customer service and collaborative relationships?

If the leaders of a company seek to retain and hire more women, they must recognize that women thrive within companies that invest and encourage their people. Women are most successful in an environment that fosters the support of one another, celebrates success, encourages collaboration, aligns work with global significance and cherishes their customers and employees that make this happen.

With the recent conversation about : #LeanInTogether: If Women Lean In Will Men Reach Out? Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook reignited the debate over women’s’ lack of progress in the business world. More recently her organization LeanIn.Org initiated a partnership with the NBA and WNBA to encourage men to support equality for women.

With the ability to generate million dollar results, building effective teams and make a difference within their communities, it seems to be no surprise to me why women join and stay with CAbi (85% retention rate) even though many already have other jobs and commitments. 

If you are waiting for women to be ready , to lead a team, start a new initiatives, or sit on a board, let me assure you, women are already delivering at this capacity for companies like CAbi that are investing and challenging women to deliver, lead and make an impact.