The push for equality in the workplace is far from over. While companies must continue to make strides in this regard for obvious ethical and fairness purposes, it is sometimes overlooked that a balance in gender and background also provides organizations with a competitive and strategic advantage that not only makes for a far more productive and innovative work environment, but also positively impacts a company’s bottom line.
In my role as Director of Training, Consulting & Implementation Services, I coordinate many events for our customers. Over the years, I’ve seen firsthand that events are much more successful when the presenters are a balanced mix of men and women. In recent years, we’ve even made a conscious effort to team up male and female presenters during our events. The result is better discussion, increased insight, and a more enjoyable experience for all participants. And this result is not limited to my own experience—it’s a fact verified by numerous studies.
Balanced teams increase ROI and foster innovation
A March 2014 report by the Anita Borg Institute found that Fortune 500 companies with at least three female directors have seen their return on invested capital increase by at least 66%, return on sales increase by 42%, and return on equity increase by at least 53%. Gallup has also found that companies with more diverse teams have a 22% lower turnover rate.
Further, according to a study published by the London Business School, work teams foster more innovative ideas if they are made up of even proportions of men and women. During the study, researchers found that teams with an equal gender split were much more likely to experiment, share knowledge and fulfill tasks, regardless of whether the team leader was a man or a woman.
The study also revealed that the balanced gender mix allowed for a safer communication climate and increased self-confidence among members, which facilitated innovation. The report concluded that teams work best with an even mix because individuals tend to contribute less fully and confidently if they are outnumbered, and this applies to men as well as women.
Building a better team doesn’t stop at gender or ethnicity
No matter what type of team you are building, as a leader, balance is key. Not only balance in gender and background, but balance in work style, personality, and approach. For me, I like to build my teams with a strategic thinker, an analytical thinker, and someone whose strength is making sure things get done. After all, you can’t have a team of all strategists or nothing will be accomplished.
I also purposely seek our individuals who work and think differently than I do. I welcome perspectives different than my own—even if they challenge my thinking or approach—and it’s proved enormously beneficial to me in my career and has translated into better relationships with our customers as well.
The role of managers
Gender and background imbalance is not a business issue, it’s a leadership issue. And it’s one that doesn’t necessarily require years or costly initiatives to address. If you are a manager, make a conscious decision to build a balanced team—one that includes diverse backgrounds, thinking, and work styles. I assure you it’s a decision that will benefit you personally and professionally for years to come.