While diversity is “the right thing to do,” it will get more support if it is also good for business. A business approach to diversity includes: (1) it is based on facts; (2) there is a strong business case; (3) it is expressed in non-judgmental terms. For example, an initiative to improve gender diversity will be based on where women are represented, turnover rates and levels of measurable engagement. The business case for gender diversity must be spelled out. And root causes for not having gender diversity must be expressed so men aren’t put on the defensive.
Reactions to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic have included that neither men nor women can “have it all.” This is now an issue for men as well as women so it is more important for employers to implement the changes suggested in the Slaughter article. Not only will those changes benefit men and women, they will help employers retain women, who suffer the most from the “have it all” issue. But employers must also create inclusive cultures that allow women as well as men to feel valued and included. Such a culture helps a woman handle the juggling of career and family and allows more women to reach the top. This enables employers to reap the benefits of gender diversity in leadership.
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.”