Looking for profitability? Consider diversity!
Studies of Fortune 500 companies conducted by Catalyst have found a clear correlation between companies with women executives in corporate positions and higher returns on investment (66 %) and sales (44 %). McKinsey studies have reached similar conclusions.
Markets and thus companies are evolving towards increasingly sophisticated models as a result of globalisation and technological development, making the diverse and multidisciplinary knowledge to find solutions to complex problems is a must. A successful company requires the specific talent for each role, to ensure the returns and resilience required.
When talking about diversity, women’s access to basic and higher education is a significant factor in recent decades globally. For example, currently more than one third of MBA students in the twelve main Western universities are women.
Legislation should ensure equality, not place quotas that will yield a satisfactory statistical result, but which do not necessarily have a real result in terms of skill assessment
But, despite development, so far gender gap studies have not found a substantial improvement, which is a matter for concern and for the agenda of such organisations as the World Economic Forum, the United Nations Global Compact, consultancy firms, and various organisations for professional and business development. Although women’s recruitment at the base of the business structure is 50 % on average, its growth line breaks down in middle management, and representation is even lower in the C-Suite and Executive Boards.
According to Catalyst studies, the world would have to wait 40 years to achieve equal opportunities and close the current gender gap at the pace of recent years. The responsibility for speeding up this change lies both with women and with men, with companies and States, so we must review specific issues to be worked on by the relevant agent.
Male leaders with a real understanding of economic and social trends must make their views on equal capacities and opportunities explicit. This is not a matter or mere statistics, but of producing results.
Female leaders should serve as role models, invigorate professional associations, be explicit on leadership issues, and present themselves to women who are on the path to professional growth, both in their companies and in their communities. They should inspire women to develop leadership competences and become self-assured, which is crucial for growth and the attainment of positions of power; supporting them in the development of their own styles, taking the best examples and adapting them to their own personalities so that they become real professionals.
The CEO’s conviction, explicit communication, and action are required within the company. Observation, some uncomfortable conversations, and plenty of analysis of recruitment, promotion, special assignment, assessment, and remuneration data are required. It should be ensured that there are no hindrances in the business policies, culture, and infrastructure that block equal development of all the communities in the company.
The company should develop specific team management qualification programmes to assist managers in bringing out the best in team members (as in the Google case) and break paradigms such as thinking that the best candidate for recruitment is the one that most resembles you.
Special focus should be placed on women’s development in middle management, where the main break takes place. A climate of trust and motivation that leads to better professional performance should be created.
National authorities should also review legislation and regulations to ensure equality and not underprotect or overprotect women at work and in the social structure. Legislation should ensure equality, not place quotas that will yield a satisfactory statistical result, but which do not necessarily have a real result in terms of skill assessment.
Companies do not require men or women, but rather leaders, to grow in a profitable manner. Diversity is not the privilege of the few, but the well-being of all
In conclusion, in 21st century successful companies in developed societies, diversity is not only desirable but mandatory to ensure the use of the best talent available. Every person is different in terms of ambitions and outlook. What really matters is not placing hindrances and recognising in time those women professionals who have the characteristics to lead organisations, so that they are given the necessary opportunities for development.
Leadership is a personal matter, not a gender one; it involves determination and preparation to develop competence, and is closely linked to the perception and desire for power and influence. Companies do not require men or women, but rather leaders, to grow in a profitable manner. Diversity is not the privilege of the few, but the well-being of all.