More and more studies link gender diversity and higher returns. Some suggest this is because of unique ways women lead. I disagree. All women do not lead alike. Both men and women lead in masculine ways; both have “feminine” elements to their leadership. The best leaders value and leverage both masculine and feminine strengths. When they do, more people feel valued — and engaged. Having more women at the top makes it more likely a group will have a balance of masculine and feminine strengths; more likely more people are engaged; more likely decisions will be better.
Common sense — and studies — confirm that engaged people do better work and are more likely to stay. Engagement is linked with retention, productivity and profitability. Feeling different — like an “outsider” — can undermine engagement.Spending energy figuring out the rules and fitting in takes energy away from quality and efficiency. In today’s diverse workforce, leaders cannot engage everyone the same. Leaders must understand and appreciate difference to have broad engagement.
Being different (in gender) from my peers, I got a taste of how this affects one’s energy. When I got involved in diversity initiatives, I understood how much energy people put into “fitting in.” This is energy that could be redirected to the quantity and quality of work. An inclusive culture gets better results because more people feel valued!
The link between inclusion and better business results is about engagement. Higher engagement is linked in research to higher productivity and profitability. Engaging the bulk of workers is complicatedi n today’s diverse workforce. Engagement, which involves a sense of belonging, must be wide and deep. Employees who spend energy on “fitting in” are spending energy that leaders need to be focused on doing great work. Leadership skills of inclusion are about getting the best work out of more of the diverse workforce.
There is a compelling business case for gender diversity and inclusion. Yet women still aren’t proportionally represented at higher levels of business. Where do they go? They go to another employer, disengage and quit climbing or start their own businesses. The causes are both “push factors” and “pull factors.” While women’s role in the family is an important push factor, businesses should focus on push factors, including “invisible mind-sets” that cause women to disengage or leave. The root causes of these push factors are the “comfort principle” and “unconscious preferences.” Understanding the causes of disengagement can enable the solution, which includes bringing to conscious awareness those invisible mind-sets.