WOMEN IN LEASING DEMONSTRATE INCLUSIVITY’S BENEFITS
The Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) saw its highest attendance by women at its annual convention in Washington, D.C., this past October: women comprised a record-breaking 18 percent of attendees. The ELFA is taking great strides in the recognition, participation, and advancement of women in the equipment leasing and finance industry through, among other efforts, its establishment of the ELFA Women’s Council. The Women’s Council saw its second annual “Women in Leadership Forum” conference double in attendance this past year from its first conference, held in April 2018. The ELFA has set a goal of attaining a 20-percent female presence at its 2020 annual convention as women in leasing continue to be recognized for their meaningful contributions, achievements, and tireless efforts in advancing the industry.
To successfully attain the goal of gender equality and diversity within the ELFA and its member companies, the ELFA recognizes that one key lies with male inclusion in the process. While the notion of male inclusivity to foster equality is not unique, it has become a focal point of many initiatives in which male allies serve as a critical component to, among others, women’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Men currently remain the majority of senior leaders in the equipment leasing and finance sector as well as in financial services generally. It is, however, because of this fact that they are in the best position to help drive cultural and organizational change.
With this understanding, the Women’s Council recently appointed my colleague, Robert S. Cohen, and Terry R. Miller of CNH Industrial Capital to join Kevin Sensenbrenner of Stonebriar Commercial Finance as male members of the Women’s Council. Bob’s motivation for serving on the Women’s Council stems from his support of and desire to be a part of the equal recognition and advancement of women within the industry.
As Bob accurately noted, “Simply put, everyone benefits from a more diverse and inclusive work environment. Women are an important part of our industry, and their numbers are appropriately growing. A wider variety of perspectives and insights yields better decisions.” Indeed, men welcoming women as partners in leadership roles within the equipment finance industry is crucial to furthering the Women’s Council’s goals, as men who understand and value gender diversity are empowered to advocate for and support women and work toward achieving gender equality.
Moreover, while the Women’s Council continues to pave the way for gender balance, its broader focus remains on diversity and inclusion at large. Deborah Baker, who serves as chair of the Women’s Council, recently stated, “It is not about having a room full of women. We want a diverse group of perspectives. We want the industry to be reflective of our customer base.” This unwavering commitment to diversity, extending beyond gender, dovetails with the objectives of the Women’s Council’s sister organization, the ELFA’s newly formed Equality Steering Committee, established to create an environment of equality, diversity, and inclusion within the ELFA and the equipment finance industry. Although the two committees are independent organizations, they often work together with the common goal of promoting diversity and inclusion while igniting meaningful change within the industry.
Studies consistently demonstrate that organizations with diverse boards have statistically proven to be more successful. It is well established that talented female leaders have a positive impact on the work environment, including, but not limited to, yielding better financial results, higher retention, and greater productivity. Gender-balanced companies have consistently outperformed those that are not, navigating economic downturns better and doing so at a faster rate. So, to achieve gender parity within the equipment leasing and finance industry, we must remember to ask, “What do men think?” because to achieve inclusivity necessarily eliminates any notion of exclusivity.