Gender diversity for better performance

N°196a – Synopsis (8p.) – Diversity and Inclusion
Gender diversity for better performance
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Beyond ethical considerations, how can you capitalize on the complementary leadership styles of men and women to reinforce organizational performance?

Businesses do better when they take advantage of the complementary management styles of men and women. This fact was pointed out by a number of studies in recent years. The McKinsey strategy consulting firm, for example, showed that companies with several women in senior management roles performed far better financially than those with exclusively male leadership teams, generating close to a 40 percent higher return on capital employed!

Yet, despite the fact that companies often say they support gender equality in the workplace and equal opportunity for women in management, progress remains limited. Less than a third of the 1,500 top-ranked companies in the U.S. have at least one female executive. In Europe, only 11 percent of executive committee and board members were female at the end of 2008.

The problem results not so much from a lack of good intentions as from the challenges involved in addressing this sensitive issue. Should the company set quotas or simply allow talented women to rise to the top naturally? How should a company communicate on this issue without appearing to do too much or too little? How can it ensure that gender diversity initiatives will actually lead to higher performance?

The analyzed publications draw three main conclusions:

– Focus on performance rather than diversity. Sensitizing people to the strategic benefits of gender diversity is the best way to motivate them to make the required changes.

– Target a big change in the numbers. To have a significant effect on performance, the presence of women in management ranks must be more than symbolic.

– Promote a "bilingual" organization. Gender diversity initiatives will boost performance only if every member of the organization knows how to take advantage of its benefits.

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