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Diversity, Gender, Leadership

McKinsey Research Reveals the Secret to Diversity Success: Passionately Committed Leadership


By Melissa J. Anderson

According to a report in this month’s McKinsey Quarterly, researchers Joanna Barsh, Sandra Nudelman, and Lareina Yee, have significant found real-world evidence to support the research the team has put forth over the past few years on the business case for women. They write:

“Encouragingly, many of the themes identified in our research over the years—for example, the importance of having company leaders take a stand on gender diversity, the impact of corporate culture, and the value of systematic talent-management processes—loom large for these companies. This continuity is reassuring: it’s becoming crystal clear what the most important priorities are for companies and leaders committed to gender-diversity progress.”

Topping the list of what makes diversity programming work is an emotionally committed CEO, who is motivated to tell the diversity story and tout accomplishments in the space not simply because it is good for business, but because he or she feels it is right.

They researchers explain, “CEOs and senior executives of our top companies walk, talk, run, and shout about gender diversity. Their passion goes well beyond logic and economics; it’s emotional.”

Diversity managers can site study after study about the importance of gender equality. But what really hits the point home is a powerful discussion of diversity by corporate leaders, and meaningful action following that guidance.

Diversity, Gender

Enabling Women to Be Authentic Fuels the Desire to Lead


By Melissa J. Anderson

New research [PDF] out of INSEAD, the world’s largest graduate business school, shows that women leaders experience less stress at work when they feel good about… being women. This finding may seem simple and obvious, but the rigorous study delves deep into identity theory around leadership and gender, with quantitative research on over 600 female leaders across the globe.

The study, “Me, a woman and a leader: Antecedents and consequences of the identity conflict of women leaders,” was written by INSEAD researchers Natalia Karelaia and Laura Guillén. They found that, especially in male dominated organizations, women leaders experience significant conflict regarding their social identities as both a leader and a woman.

Many women in the study reported spending all day conforming to an aggressive, stereotypically “male” leadership identity at work. Feeling forced to behave in a way that was inauthentic to their more traditionally “female” gender identity – warm, nurturing, cooperative – left these women unhappy at work, stressed out, and unmotivated to lead.

These women saw leadership as something the had to do, rather than something they wanted to do.

But, the research shows, this identity conflict seemed to diminish in companies that were more gender balanced at the top, middle, and entry level. In fact, working in organizations where being a woman is seen as explicitly positive left them more motivated to lead.

“By reducing identity conflict, a more positive gender identity increases the joy of leading and decreases the sense of obligation to do so,” Karelaia and Guillén write.

Diversity, Gender

Companies Struggling to Engage White Men on Diversity and Inclusion


By Melissa J. Anderson

A new study out of Greatheart Leader Labs and Georgetown University shows that white men are less likely to be engaged in diversity and inclusion initiatives at companies. This is a problem, write the report authors, Chuck Shelton, managing director at Greatheart Leader Labs, and David A. Thomas, Ph.D., dean of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“Globally, 32 million white men hold leadership positions, with six million in the United States. White men possess more than 40% of the leadership jobs in most companies, and that percentage increases dramatically by leadership level. The position power and leadership skills that white men possess need to align with the value that diversity and inclusion delivers.”

Because white men tend to dominate the ranks of the world’s largest companies, they hold both the purse strings when it comes to diversity and inclusion programs and the social influence necessary to make these programs work. Shelton and Thomas write that white men are “a significantly underperforming asset in every company’s global D&I investment portfolio.”

Diversity, Gender

Exploring the Connection Between Social Discourse and Corporate Gender Initiatives

Businesswoman with colleagues in the background

By Melissa J. Anderson

A new Harvard Business School study reveals how external forces shape internal corporate action on gender issues. The new working paper by Lakshmi Ramarajan, Kathleen McGinn, and Deborah Kolb reveals that corporate action on gender diversity over the past two decades is the result of a reaction to cultural trends as tracked in the media.

The researchers studied the gender initiatives of one large professional services firm from 1991 to 2009. They found that the focus of initiatives responded to the predominant gender discrepancies being talked about in the media. They explain:

“Regarding timing, as each discourse peaked in the media, internal discrepancies between expectations and outcomes rose, sparking the onset of a new internal analysis phase. Analysis was the firm’s response to internal and external challenges to prevailing beliefs about gender and work. Regarding content, in each cycle, the beliefs seemingly derived through internal analysis echoed the substance of the social discourse at the onset of the analysis period, and these beliefs, formalized in Initiative mission statements and stated in internal documents, directed activities inside the firm during the following action phase.”

The study shows how cultural and media pressure on gender diversity drives change within the corporate environment.

Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality, Gender

Intersection of Race and Gender Affects Leadership Choices

Diverse team all looking right

By Melissa J. Anderson

We know that race and gender can influence who gets jobs and promotions, and ultimately who becomes a leader within corporations. But new research has revealed that the intersection of race and gender – “gendered race” – also has an impact on leadership decisions.

The study, “Gendered Races: Implications for Interracial Marriage, Leadership Selection, and Athletic Participation” examines how gendered characteristics are implicitly assigned to racial categories. The phenomenon can have a profound affect both in the workplace, when considering what jobs are considered appropriate for individuals of particular race/gender combinations, as well as in people’s lives outside work (from athletic participation to spousal selection).

The researchers, Adam D. Galinsky, Northwestern University; Erika V. Hall, Northwestern University, and Amy J. C. Cuddy, Harvard University, write that the intersection between racial and gender stereotypes has “important real-world consequences.”

They explain, “…we demonstrate that the overlap between racial and gender stereotypes goes beyond facial features and is captured in the content of stereotypes.” Then they performed additional studies to show how these stereotypes play out in real life.

Diversity, Gender

Metrics Needed around Leadership Development


By Melissa J. Anderson

According to new research by Catalyst, companies are putting women high performers through leadership development training earlier and longer than men – yet men are still reaping more rewards from these kinds of programs.

This suggests, the organization believes, that companies should be more strategic around the types of projects people are assigned after they complete these programs – otherwise, companies are missing out on a highly trained and capable segment of their workforce.

“Offering critical assignments to high-potential women as part of an intentional strategy can help break through the logjam that blocks advancement for talented women,” said Ilene H. Lang, President & Chief Executive Officer at Catalyst.

By creating more transparency and accountability around who gets big projects following leadership development training, companies can ensure they retain the best and brightest workers throughout their leadership pipeline.

Diversity, Gender

Hidden Bias Hits Women Stockbrokers


By Melissa J. Anderson

There are many jobs – particularly in finance or sales related positions that are compensated based on commission – which appear on the outset to have objective measurements regarding success. Did someone make money or did someone not make money? In some cases, women appear to underperform compared to men – this has been chalked up to women choosing less demanding accounts, choosing to work fewer hours, or just not being as assertive or risky.

In these cases, cries for more pay equality are met with a response that performance measurement is based on a meritocratic system. If anyone was compensated less than average, the line of thinking goes, it’s because they didn’t work as hard.

But a new study by a Wharton researcher shows that there are organizational biases at play when it comes to so-called meritocratic, commission based jobs. It points to the reasons that, while formalized pay structures can help decrease inequity, management plays a key role in who makes what. Therefore, line-managers must be a part of discussions around diversity and equity in companies – even those where pay is based on commission.

Diversity, Gender

Leadership: From Talk to Action

Confident young businesswoman with hands folded isolated over white

By Melissa J. Anderson

When leaders speak out about the importance of diversity and inclusion, they are in essence making a promise. They are declaring their support for an issue that can be difficult to solve, one that will require money and resources, continuous care and monitoring, and buy-in from the rest of leadership all the way down through the organization. Change is difficult to achieve and not everyone likes it.

But more than being vocal about diversity initiatives, leaders have to be sure to keep their promises on this issue. Nothing will discredit a program more than the notion that it’s all talk, full of hot air, or just a passing caprice. The same applies to a leader.

That’s why it’s so critical that leaders understand that words must be followed by actions. And that’s why the situation with the European Central Bank is so interesting.

Diversity, Gender

Men and Women Directors View Talent Differently


By Melissa J. Anderson

According to a new global survey [PDF] of over 1000 board directors by Women Corporate Directors, Heidrick & Struggles, Professor Boris Groysberg of Harvard Business School, and researcher Deborah Bell, men and women had remarkably similar views on the most critical issues facing companies today – economic outlook, regulatory concerns, business challenges.

“Gender differences practically disappeared when we looked at how men and women directors think about issues like the economy,” said Bonnie Gwin, vice chairman and co-managing partner of Heidrick & Struggles’ North American Board and CEO Practice. “These bottom-line business issues tend to allow for the greatest consensus in the boardroom.”

In fact, both men and women both named the “regulatory environment” as the number one challenge facing their companies. Second, both named the need to “attract and retain top talent.”

But that’s where the similarities ended. On issues of talent and diversity, male and female viewpoints were considerably different.

Diversity, Gender

Europe Considers Gender Quotas


By Melissa J. Anderson

According to a report by the Financial Times, the EU is preparing to launch a proposal on gender quotas in October.

The FT’s James Fontanella-Khan reported that, by 2020, the boards of Europe’s listed companies will have to be 40% female if the proposal is approved. The move comes after the EU’s justice commissioner Viviane Reding declared that while she doesn’t like quotas, they get the job done when it comes to boardroom gender balance. She suggested that if companies didn’t begin to make their own changes, the EU might force those changes upon them.

Companies did little more than call her bluff, and to their surprise, in March of this year, she said that not enough had been done in terms of gender diversity and quotas were on the way.