33 percent. It seems like a somewhat inconsequential number. Yet, it’s the exact premise of a workshop recently hosted by Hunter Irrigation as part of its Women’s Growth Forum.

Kelly Lockwood Primus, CEO of Leading Women, hosted a deep dive into this figure — the missing 33 percent — and the role it plays in the professional development of women.

“The majority of the roles in the senior level that run and operate the business are held by men,” Primus said.

33 percent is the number required to close the gender gap in those leadership roles within organizations. Managers look for skills such as business, strategic and financial acumen in future leaders. However, managers of women often neglect to teach women those very skills.

“When the bosses look at who is the high performer, who really gets what we do – almost half of the skills that the organization look for in employees are those that can demonstrate business and strategic financial acumen,” Primus said.

Get uncomfortable

Primus encouraged attendees to focus on understudying the numbers behind a business. She urged attendees to find a mentor who can help explain and teach that specific skill set.

“Finance is a piece of the business that will make you feel like you are a part of the business and not an imposter,” she said.

It may be an uncomfortable lesson for those less mathematically inclined, but it’s a necessary evil for those who seek to climb the corporate ladder.

“It’s time to be uncomfortable if you want to be seen as a businessperson in your business,” Primus said, noting it could be as simple as managing the budget for a small team. “Everyone can learn, you may not like it.”

Business acumen, Primus said is a portfolio of knowledge and a range of skills including interpersonal skills, financial know-how and technical capabilities. She says understanding how a company makes its business decisions is a vital skill to learn.

“As a leader of an organization, it’s important to recognize while being good at your job is important, but equally important is that you understand the big picture,” Primus said. “What are your company’s goals? What industry are you in and with whom do you compete? What role does your department play in the business?”

Understanding a company’s goals, objectives, gross sales, profit margin and key performance indicators (KPIs) are also essential to bridging the 33 percent gap, Primus said. She also encouraged attendees to brush up on their risk management skills.

“Learn about the big picture at your company,” she said. “Understand your company’s financial performance. Develop your critical thinking and decision-making skills and make sure your own biases aren’t driving these decisions.”

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Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University. She can be reached at

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