UBER This! Why Gender Intelligence is Critical to the Company’s Future

President and CEO of Global Risk Institute, Richard Nesbitt, discusses the importance of gender intelligence – and why management behaviour needs to change<

The recent board and management shenanigans at UBER serve as a reminder of how much work many organizations still need around gender intelligence. One of the most important opportunities that exists is to improve our companies by achieving management teams and boards consisting of competent and motivated women and men working together.

We know that if a certain behavior is not delivering a desired result, people will usually change this behavior. If a marketing program is not effective, you do not continue to run it, you change it. If a part on a machine keeps failing, you do not keep using it, you replace it.

Sometimes, however, people do not alter their behavior, and thus continue to experience the same failing result repeatedly. Every one of you will have seen this happen in your lives: in your family, your business or your country. Why do people act this way? Undoubtedly, human nature bears some responsibility. This pattern of what could be called “failed behavior” plays a major role in the lack of advancement of women at many organizations. Consider UBER.

Women have changed their behavior a great deal to achieve what they seek. So why do we continue to believe that women can be CEO only 6% of the time — the current percentage of CEOs of S&P 500 companies? Not all men believe this, and many men today are strong proponents of change. Yet it is this “failed behavior” on the part of the majority that leads to inferior corporate performance.

There are well-documented differences between the problem-framing and problem solving styles of men and women, across many different domains of expertise and practice. It is these different approaches that leads to superior performance.

The Ones Who Get It and Are Acting on It

There are male leaders today who get it and are acting on it. When leaders become aware of the economic power of men and women leading together—most especially when they see the results of women in leadership—their mindset changes, the culture shifts, and the organization as a whole begins to behave more productively and effectively. You know who these leaders are by their statements:

  • “We publicly support, endorse, and act on gender diversity.”
  • “We publicize our diversity progress frequently and at all levels.”
  • “Our firm is stronger for having including women at all levels of leadership.”

Those Who Believe in It but Don’t Know What to Do 

Believers recognize the value of women in leadership but don’t know what to do or even realize that they need to be involved. They’re comfortable in their environment. They don’t realize that nothing will change unless they themselves act on it. These male leaders are in organizations whose leadership still doesn’t view gender diversity as a strategic imperative, and diversity efforts often give way to other priorities. Here is how you know who these leaders are:

  • “I have some excellent women on my team but I wish I could find more.”
  • “I wish I knew what women want from me in my business.”
  • “I am really busy but I support what HR is doing to promote gender diversity.”

Those Who Don’t Get It or Don’t Care to

The men in this category are generally not interested in the subject of women in leadership. They don’t see it as part of their critical path. Their focus is on other priorities and they generally treat gender diversity as an annoyance and a nonissue, often to their own detriment. Here are some typical quotes by the male leaders in this category:

  • “We just cannot find enough qualified female candidates.”
  • “No women applied for the roles.”
  • “We just do not know why women leave our firm.”

A few groups have been trying to get this research story out for more than a decade now, and there are several conclusions from this research that you can take to the bank:

  • The addition of one female member to a board that is currently all male will result in superior performance for the organization concerned;
  • Companies with more women in management perform better financially than companies without women in management.
  • The improvement in performance from adding women to management teams continues to grow at least until the team is relatively balanced between men and women.
  • The benefits of gender diversity in management may increase proportionately for firms in which corporate strategy is more dependent on innovation.
  • The benefits arise from women working together with men on boards and in management and not from the substitution of women for men.

If diversity is almost always valuable – and if it almost always trumps homogeneity in problem solving of precisely the kinds businesses engage in – then not promoting women to executive problem solving roles entails a very significant opportunity cost!

UBER illustrates that change comes hard. No one says it will be easy. No one says it will be without conflict. If it was easy it would already have been done. However, if a few more men at UBER could shift from believers to sponsors, they could change their firm dramatically. If more men throughout our communities make this same shift, we will change the world.

President and CEO of Global Risk Institute, Richard Nesbitt is the co-author of Results at the Top: Using Gender Intelligence to Create Breakthrough Growth with world-renowned  gender intelligence expert, Barbara Annis. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Rotman School of Management of the University of Toronto and chair of the Advisory Board of the Mind Brain Behavior Hive at the same University. Well known in the financial service industry, Nesbitt serves on a number of community and corporate boards of directors and his experience includes Chief Operating Officer at CIBC and Chief Executive Officer at the Toronto Stock Exchange. For more information, visit www.genderintelligence.com and globalriskinstitute.org.

Author: Editor

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