Fixing the “pyramid problem” (that women aren’t proportionally represented at the upper levels of business) would enable businesses to avoid significant costs and capture significant upsides. But changing organizational culture and unconscious preferences can only occur if there is a solid business case. There is. The business case for building an inclusive cultures includes facts showing that inclusive cultures: (1) have higher customer satisfaction and profits; (2) have lower turnover; (3) have an easier time recruiting; (4) get better decisions, and (5) have the ability to tap the multicultural marketplace. The business case for gender diversity in leadership adds to this: (1) companies with gender diversity at the top get higher returns, (2) the hiring pool is half women and the educated pool is more than half women; (3) it opens the huge women’s market, and (4) it has the biggest “bang for the buck.”
Rather than post the next in my series on roots of masculine and feminine differences at work, I pause to celebrate the “birth” of my book, Difference Works. I liken this to the birth of my children. Just as I wanted a family, I wanted this book–because I want to make a difference. My interest in “gender differences” shifted from an interest on behalf of women to a passion on behalf of business. I want to help businesses engage and retain people not only because they get higher productivity and profitability. Organizations with engaged people have better ethics, are better corporate citizens and do more good in the world. THAT’s why I spent 3 years “birthing” this book!
To capture the upside of gender diversity in leadership, leaders must engage both men and women. Understanding and appreciating both masculine and feminine approaches to work is key. To create understanding of these differences without stereotyping, we use Max and Fran–prototypes of masculine and feminine ways of working. Max and Fran structure organizations, teams and space differently. There are advantages and disadvantages of both. Appreciating both can increase engagement.
Business has a “pyramid problem.” Women aren’t proportionally represented in upper levels. This isn’t just a problem for women. It imposes unnecessary costs on business and deprives them of significant upsides. The business case for gender diversity provides compelling reasons to fix this problem. What causes women to leave (or just stop climbing)? The causes are unconscious and invisible. Solution comes from recognizing that barriers for women arise from the “comfort principle” and from failure of leaders to appreciate masculine-feminine differences.