Smart Organizations Are Diverse Organizations

Watching the news today inspires a new look at how women have been regarded in the workplace. The timing and urgency is more important than ever. Just looking around the cable industry, we see the predominance of men, especially in leadership positions. Experience has shown me that it is important that all organizations support women in their personal and professional growth and help them contribute to the organizations where they work.

But the issue is not only one of fairness. When equality and development of women is practiced in organizations, they also perform better. Studies show that:

  • Organizations with a higher the percentage of female corporate officers had a 35% higher ROI, 34% higher return to shareholders (White house Project). They also show more innovation (Standard and Poor).
  • Organizations with a higher percentage of women on their boards show a return on equity, return on sales, and return on invested capital by 42-66% (Catalyst).

This is not because women are better than men, but because the diversity of both genders working together creates a strong synergy. Notably, this effort needs to move beyond tolerance and tokenism. We need to intentionally develop women as leaders if we want to impact our organizations.  To do this we need to practice robust inclusion with the women in our business, and we need to understand what that inclusion really means.

Inclusion means to be intentional about valuing the contributions of both genders. So, what are a few best practices for doing this?

  • Set up all your decision-making teams with a good mixture of gender. Create a collaborative environment where teamwork and joint decision-making is respected. Use more of a process decision-making model where differences are appreciated and discussed first, and decisions made second.
  • Be intentional about setting up mentoring for the women in your organization, so they can learn how to lead well. Put together a structure that encourages both genders to learn from each other.
  • Encourage the sponsorship and visibility of women and their abilities and skills. Reward those who take the time to highlight others’ abilities.
  • Ensure that professional development opportunities are available to the women in your organization. Base leadership development and promotions on capability, not gender, while recognizing that both women and men both bring unique skills and attributes to the table.
  • Keep gender stereotypes from becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. Not everyone fits a strict gender stereotype. Things like personality, culture, generation and upbringing influence behavior just as much as gender can. View each person as someone from whom you can learn. This will keep you focused on being curious rather making blanket judgements.

Actively and intentionally practicing the inclusion of women in your organization will reap rewards, not only in a positive work environment, but with bottom line results as well.

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Dr. Liz Selzer is founder/CEO of the Mentor Leadership Team, a consulting company that promotes mentoring initiatives and strong corporate cultures. She also teaches leadership at selected universities.

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