Caroline Turner, author of Difference Works: Improving Retention, Productivity and Profitability through Inclusion, says organizations with inclusive cultures do better on several scores than firms that shy away from hiring and promoting women.
Explain how gender diversity is a virtue to businesses.
Catalyst has found significantly higher returns in Fortune 500 companies with more women at the top and on their boards of directors. McKinsey & Company studied a group of listed European firms and found that those with gender diversity in leadership experienced higher return on equity, operating profit, and stock price. While neither claims a causal connection, it appears that gender diversity is good for the bottom line. I think that is because, with a balance of men and women in a group, there is more likely to be a balance of masculine and feminine approaches to thinking, working and leading. That leads to better outcomes. A company that is dominated by either masculine or feminine approaches won't do as well as one that has a balance.
Describe masculine and feminine approaches.
I divide masculine and feminine approaches to work into 10 areas, including how we structure things, what we focus on when doing work, and how we influence others, talk and handle conflict. To boil it down, the masculine approach is to think hierarchically (power is vertically distributed), focus primarily on the goal, influence by telling or commanding, speak with confidence and handle conflict directly. The feminine approach is to think of the world as a network where power is shared, focus on the process to achieve and sustain the goal, influence by persuading, speak more hesitantly and handle conflict more indirectly. The punch line is that workplaces need to understand, appreciate and leverage both approaches.
What kinds of surveys can companies use to achieve gender diversity?
To determine if your company has gender diversity, you need to look at the numbers. What is the percentage of women at each level of the organization? If women aren't proportionally represented at the upper levels, you haven't achieved gender diversity. Surveys can help measure the level of engagement of women vs. men; engagement is linked with retention, productivity and profitability. Surveys, interviews and focus groups can identify any barriers to women's reaching the upper ranks including whether they feel they have access to formal and informal networks and whether they feel their way of achieving results is fully valued. Understanding any barriers helps you design the most effective actions, including increasing awareness of masculine-feminine differences, monitoring how opportunities are handed out and assuring accountability.
Where does mentoring fit in?
Successful people usually acknowledge the value they've received from mentoring. Women, just as men, need mentors to advise them, open doors, advocate for them and give them straight feedback. Women often complain they don't get as much mentoring. First, there are more men than women leaders to do the mentoring. Second, it is human nature to prefer to spend time with people like ourselves. Senior men are more likely to give their time to more junior men if they don't stop and consider the value of supporting women as well as men to succeed.
Twitter@DawnHouseTrib Caroline Turner, Author.