It’s a sad reality that even in 2020, women are sorely underrepresented in capital markets. Studies have shown that, as career level rises, female representation declines.
The Workforce Today
According to a report by Mercer, although 46 percent of financial services employees are women, only 15 percent of the financial services workforce is comprised of females at the executive level.
The situation is echoed when it comes to women who serve on the boards of public companies in Canada. A 2019 report by law firm Osler found that women now hold over 18 percent of board seats among surveyed companies, but the pace is slowing, down from 2.5 percent in 2017 to 1.7 percent in 2018.
Despite the decline companies are slowly recognizing the need to adopt policies and practices to ensure female representation at the highest level. In 2018, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board announced plans to establish a policy to vote against the chair of the nominating committee of its investee public companies if the board has no women directors. And, earlier this year, Goldman Sachs announced it wouldn’t take companies public if they do not have at least one woman sitting on their board.
Even so, public markets have a long way to go before women are equally represented across all levels of management. As such, children’s clothing designer Peekaboo Beans Inc. (CSE:BEAN) is a trailblazer. The Vancouver-based company is spearheaded by CEO, Traci Costa, and a four-person board of directors that is 75 percent female. If its bottom line is any indicator, Costa and her team are demonstrating that having a diverse team makes good business sense.
Costa never set out to stack her board with women. “For me it was trying to find the best fit for our board, first and foremost,” she said.
Former Lululemon executive Darrell Kopke was the first to join, bringing his knowledge of growing an apparel business that aligned well with the Peekaboo Beans brand.
Sarah Bundy came into the picture after Peekaboo started to transition its model from a direct sales approach to an omni-channel marketing plan. The switch prompted Costa to look for an expert in affiliate marketing and Bundy, founder and CEO of All Inclusive Marketing Inc., was a perfect fit.
“When I came across Sarah, she had an immediate draw and a powerful force,” Costa said. “She is a mother and an expert in affiliate marketing. In this day and age, brand and culture are such big things and you really need to have that voice, so Sarah was a great fit.”
The most recent member to join is Tamara Mimran, a member of one of Canada’s first families of fashion. Mimran, an executive at premier label Alfred Sung, brings connections, industry experience and a strong focus on products and trends to the board.
Mimran admired Costa’s energy, calling her a “powerhouse” and something of a role model. At the time, the company was pivoting its business model to adopt a new sales approach, which any executive knows can be a challenge. “She really faced that head on,” Mimran said. “She’s morphing the company into something that will have a lot of longevity. She made those hard decisions that were right for the future of the company and had the courage to get in front of it. I was inspired by her and loved her story.”
A Diverse Team for Fresh Perspectives
Today, the board covers the growth, marketing, and product trifecta; Costa is currently looking for a finance-focused member of the team.
“The value of my digital e-commerce expertise mixed with the value of Traci and Tamara’s expertise, next to what Darrell provides, is fascinating to see come together,” Bundy said. “In the end, this is going to create an incredibly powerful brand and board, because we have a very unique mix of board members with different perspectives.”
The lone male voice on the Peekaboo Beans board, Kopke is a firm believer that diversity is a major contributor to business success.
“Homogeneity breeds complacency and self-congratulatory myopia,” he said. “Diversity forces contrarian perspectives that highlight great ideas and weeds out poor ideas. If a board is committed to active listening from different perspectives, as well as active participation from all of its diverse members, better results will follow.”
Newest member Tamara Mimran said the board’s makeup reflects the needs of the brand’s consumer base. “A lot of mothers purchase the product for their children, so it does make sense to have female voices at the board level,” Mimran said.
“Diversification is all over the place at the consumer level, so why shouldn’t that trickle up to the executive team and board members? The decision-making process will have a different perspective, just as the purchasing will have a different perspective. If we mirror that, I think the company will have a lot of success.”
A Successful Business Model
Over the last year, the company has transitioned to an e-commerce model that gives it the ability to scale nationally and internationally in a much more efficient manner. Since switching to an omni-channel sales model, the company is finally starting to see its revenues grow. In its most recent quarter, Peekaboo Beans posted a 229 percent revenue boost compared to the previous three months and an increase of 21 percent over the same period last year. January 2020 sales figures were strong as well.
“After trying various sales models in the past, we believe we have finally found the optimal model to drive sales and take our unique children’s clothing brand to the next level,” Costa recently told shareholders in a statement.
Sarah Bundy, whose All Inclusive Marketing Inc. was directly involved in helping shape the new strategy, concurred. “Seeing that shift already make a big difference is really exciting.”
The Future is Female
Costa and her team have built a company that directly reflects the needs of its consumers, and at its heart, Peekaboo Beans is a female-driven brand. A tour of Peekaboo Beans’ corporate offices reveals highchairs nestled next to work desks. The company takes every step to help foster a work-life balance for its employees – which Costa says can pay off in a business context.
If you have happy employees, you have happy board members. You have happy individuals at every facet of your business; they’re going to perform at every level,” Costa said.
“Being a mother has informed me of what problems existed with dressing kids. All of the things that I’ve experienced as a mother led me to create Peekaboo Beans to make life easier for parents, because being a parent is hard enough.”