A friend of mine recently sent me this Wall Street Journal editorial, by James Turley. The article was based on a more in-depth white paper by Ernst and Young: Groundbreakers: Using the strength of women to rebuild the world economy, which examined what is necessary to get the global economy moving again.
The thesis of the WSJ editorial is:
Get more diverse perspectives to the decision-making table. Turley then uses 3 examples of studies that show that companies with more women in leadership roles were more successful.
In the past, business has tended to promote leaders who, while being risk-takers, demonstrate a low tolerance for dissent - and that leads to the groupthink that contributed to the economic trouble we face today.
Agreed. But is this because the leaders that are promoted are men, or because the leaders that are promoted are men who demonstrate a low tolerance for dissent, thus perpetuating groupthink?
It's not that women make better decisions, have a greater sense of risk, or can sniff out fraud better than men. But they tend to approach decisions differently than men, with different frames of reference.
Again. Is this is because they are women, or because the men who rise to the top tend to have similar ways of thinking because they are culturally similar? (WASPs with MBA's from the top business schools?) Think of all the women who supported Sarah Palin (about half of our sisterhood). They are women, but do we want them running our corporations/nation? Is their perspective and frame of reference one that we want setting corporate policy and strategy?
He then states:
True success will occur when organizations understand that the best strategy is one reached after including a broad variety of views and perspectives – from men and women, young and old, those who have wildly different interests, academic backgrounds or speak different languages.
That is great, but it is unfortunate that this study was not able to find some additional data using these varied demographics (men and women, young and old, those who have wildly different interests, academic backgrounds or speak different languages) to support his thesis instead of just studies focused on women. By not doing so, the reader leaves this article thinking that diversity=woman, not that diversity=all of the above.
For example, there is a tremendous amount of discrimination and bias against older workers, men and women. How many gray-heads are running around in most corporations? When I was a recruiter, I heard about one major firm who labeled resumes "FOG" ( F*$#ing Old Guy). Wouldn't older workers, of both genders, provide a perspective, maturity and insight that would benefit corporate America? Even many male, WASP, MBA's, by the time they are older (50's+), have had life experiences that would give them a perspective filled with more empathy and a deeper awareness beyond their own ego driven needs of younger days.
As a single mother of sons, and as a woman who has always had a soft spot for the struggles men face in our society, I think this type of gender typecasting perpetuates the problem. Here we have women participating in "groupthink" about men. It is important for women to embrace the fact that we are the mothers of boys who will become men. Do we not want the best for our sons, as we do our daughters? I have never considered myself a feminist, because I am a humanist. For true progress to occur, people need to transcend gender issues and work toward our common good.