The business case for gender diversity in leadership is compelling. I’ve updated it to include (more) recent studies linking diversity and financial performance.
I periodically update the research that forms the business case for gender balance at the leadership level. Here is my latest update. I review studies showing the business benefit of diversity and inclusion generally. Gender diversity brings all these benefits and more.
The fourth article by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant is titled “How Men Can Succeed in the Boardroom and the Bedroom.” About a third of the article is about how gender diversity at work is good for men (as well as women). They call it a “surprising truth” that “equality is good for men, too.” Research over at least a decade has confirmed the business value of gender diversity. So, to me, it is hardly “surprising.” The business case for gender diversity, however, can’t penetrate unconscious mind-sets. I want more spotlight on why women are not better represented at the top. I want the spotlight to be wider than on alleviating work-life pressures. We need to shine the light on, and uproot, the unconscious mind-sets that create obstacles for women in business.
In one news program this week, there was more news about women at work than about anything else. Germany is requiring companies to have women represent 30% of board members. Japan’s Prime Minister announced a goal of having women fill 30% of leadership positions. And Sheryl Sandberg is urging men to “Lean In.” With so much news coverage, could we being reaching a tipping point in people’s awareness of the business value of gender diversity?
Unconscious mind-sets are at the root of the barriers that cause women in business to disengage and not reach their potential. These are the obstacles to gender diversity. One is the “double bind.” If you are aware of this (it is not unconscious), you can alter your thinking and behavior. Women can whine and call “unfair” (it isn’t). But it is a reality. They can improve their skill of reading situations and choosing whether to operate in a masculine or feminine way. They can help others see this invisible barrier but must avoid defensiveness.
Leigh Buchanan’s article talks about a new book by John Gerzema, “Between Venus and Mars.” I see many parallels. Both our work and Gerzema’s are based upon the importance of employee engagement to productivity and profitability. We both see that women have typically conformed to masculine workplace values and styles. Most important, we agree that the workplace needs both masculine and feminine styles of leadership and that the best leaders combine strengths of both. We agree that the best decisions result from having both masculine and feminine thinkers involved and find value in both masculine and feminine forms of communication. We need more women in leadership because a balance of men and women means we are more likely to have a balance of masculine and feminine strengths. And that leads to better business results.