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The Value of Gender-Balanced Leadership

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The Value of Gender-Balanced Leadership

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By: Melissa Greenwell, Chief Operating Officer, The Finish Line, Inc

There are a lot of unknowns in business, but one thing all executive leaders can count on is that the competitive landscape isn’t going to get any easier. Top leaders are being pushed to deliver better products, faster and with lower cost. No one can afford to let up any pressure to improve capabilities and performance. Many leaders engage hoards of consultants and millions of dollars to help them come up with new ideas and strategies. Yet most still overlook a far simpler and more affordable investment that’s been proven to make a difference: getting more women onto their leadership teams and governing boards.

The boardroom and executive gender gap has spurred various initiatives, along with plenty of research to support what is common sense: If a roomful of men can draw on their experiences and insights to help a business succeed, a roomful of men and women drawing from a deeper pool can achieve even more.

In a 2010 study, a group of professors from Carnegie Mellon University and the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence found that a group’s gender mix is among the factors affecting shared aptitude: The more women a group has, the better it performs on tasks such as brainstorming, decision-making, and problem-solving. By measuring the ability of groups to perform a wide range of tasks, they determined that it was not the intelligence of group members that affected performance but the correlation to the social sensitivity of the groups, which affected turn taking in conversation and the proportion of females in the groups. They refer to the measurement of this type of group intelligence as the c factor or collective intelligence.

Having more women in leadership and on boards affects culture and behaviors change in ways that improve their overall effectiveness when more women are part of the conversation. Some of these include enhanced dialogue, better decision-making, including the value of dissent, and more effective risk mitigation and crisis management, with better balance between risk-welcoming and risk-aversion behavior.

Though it’s human nature, not bad intentions, to surround ourselves with those most like us, we need to break out of that comfort zone to leverage the competitive advantage of gender balance. The cloning effect that continues to occur by hiring and promoting people who are just like us (whoever we are) is bad for business. It creates dominant groups of people who are closed off and get little to no exposure to the thought processes of people who are wired differently or have different perspectives based on their life experiences and cultures.

Is it easy to move away from what is known and comfortable? No. Will it take longer to find people outside of your usual networks? Yes. Will bringing people who think differently into the fold make your life more difficult because they will challenge and ask questions you didn’t already think of? Yes. Will you get to better outcomes both in the short and long term? Yes!

Companies and boards need to take action now to compete in the future. In the meantime, they’re leaving money on the table.

Upcoming event

Gender Diversity Forum:

On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, Ethisphere will host a half-day Forum at the NASDAQ MarketSite, in Times Square, New York City, drawing from members of Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Companies® and Business Ethics Leadership Alliance (BELA) communities to connect leaders and present interactive discussions on benefits and best practices in gender diversity. REGISTER HERE.


About the Author

Melissa Greenwell is the author of MONEY ON THE TABLE:  How to Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership (Greenleaf Book Group, January 2017).  She is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of national retailer The Finish Line, Inc. You can learn more at www.melissa-greenwell.com.

2017-01-15T20:42:57+00:00