When it comes to diversity in the workplace, the data are clear.

“There are endless studies that show that when there is more gender diversification and diversity inclusion on your executive leadership teams that your business performance is better,” Valerie Oswalt, chief executive officer of Century Snacks, told attendees during SNAC International’s Executive Leadership Forum.

Speaking during the Women in Snacks panel on “Empowering Women to Fuel Growth,” Ms. Oswalt cited McKinsey & Company research that indicates that the top companies for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. Likewise, companies in the top-fourth for ethnic and cultural diversity were more likely to have higher financial performance. Such indicators, Ms. Oswalt said, should encourage more companies to develop pools of top talent and programs for the highest positions regardless of their gender, ethnicity or cultural background.

“It’s hard to debate with the statistics,” she said.

Several panelists and audience members shared anecdotal information about the many challenges in the workplace, including unconscious and overt bias among peers as well as balancing family life against business requirements for travel and relocation for career advancement. They also discussed how women often are assigned “administrative” work, such as organizing executive-level meetings that tends to portray them as a “doer” instead of a “visionary or strategist” that may pave the road to career advancement.

Additionally, she listed another challenge citing statistics that indicate a greater number of women than men are “opting out” of the c-suite. To reduce the turnover rate, she encouraged businesses to provide more role models, sponsors and transitional support as candidates enter the top levels at their companies — and maybe improve their business’ performance as well.