Consider the following facts:* Economists at Davos this year speculated that the presence of more women on Wall Street might have averted the downturn.
* Ernst & Young rounded up studies that show that women can make the difference between economic success and failure in the developing world, between good and bad decision-making in the industrialized world, and between profit and loss in the corporate world. Their conclusion: American companies would do well with more senior women.
* Organizations such as Columbia University, McKinsey & Co., Goldman Sachs, and Pepperdine University, have done research that document a clear relationship between women in senior management and corporate financial success.
* Pepperdine found that the Fortune 500 firms with the best records of putting women at the top were 18 to 69 percent more profitable than the median companies in their industries.
* Catalyst, a research firm focused on women and business, found that Fortune 500 companies with three or more women in senior management positions score higher on top measures of organizational excellence. In addition, companies with three or more women on their boards outperformed the competition on all measures by at least 40 percent.
So, these are the stats. The “why” is less straightforward. Do companies that have female executives fare better on the bottom line because they pay those women less than their male counterparts? That wouldn’t explain long-term success.
Maybe it has more to do with diversity, and the effect that comes from having (and considering) varying points of view before making decisions. According to the piece in The Washington Post, testosterone can make men more prone to competition and risk-taking. Women, on the other hand, seem to be wired for collaboration, caution, and long-term results. In fact, an economist at the University of Michigan, Scott Page, uses mathematical models to demonstrate that a diverse group will solve a complicated business problem better than a homogeneous group. So, maybe it’s not that women make better leaders. Maybe it’s that women and men make better leaders together.
With the exception of the focus on biological bases for differences in male and female work habits, this is pretty promising news. Maybe the gender gap will start to close if companies realize a diverse staff can improve their bottom line.