"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Promising News for the Gender Gap

TechRepublic reports that "Companies with more women in senior management roles make more money":
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.


SD Lynn said...

Why is the biological basis a bad thing? It is a generalization based on science. That is an improvement over generalizations based on pure myth.

Dolly said...

@SD Lynn: Science is not the objective truth that it is often made out to be. Many studies on "gender differences" are the result of scientists' own cultural biases. When scientists harbor sexist perspectives, they may look for ways to use biology to prove their viewpoint and refuse to see evidence that points to the contrary. Do you notice how the generalizations "based on science" in this article fit our already preconceived notions about how men and women should behave? (Men are daring and action-takers; women are passive and cautious). IMO, our society is much too gendered right now to make any accurate or objective assessment on the "biological" differences between women and men.

Tracey said...

What Dolly said. Also, I can add that, with the way socialization and other environmental factors affect how we think, feel, and behave, there really is no real, scientific way to prove that one gender is "hardwired" for anything. Arguing that there are biological differences for perceived differences between the sexes contributes to the idea that men and women are meant to fill certain "natural" roles rather than allowing people to develop according to their own potentials.