Closing the Gender Gap: The Business Case for Organizations, Politics and Society


Last week I had the honor of attending a conference (click here from FB) at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government which brought together over 100 though leaders to discuss the research that supports the positive economic value of gender diversity. It truly was a ‘who’s who’ of researchers in the field, including many of the people we quoted in out “Women in Fund Management” Study. A partial list includes:

Barbara Annis – Author, Leadership and the Sexes

Hannah Riley Bowles – Associate Professor Harvard Kennedy School, extensive research on gender in negotiations and the attainment of leadership positions.

Iris Bohnet – Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, extensive research on the role of gender in decision making.

Robin Ely – Professor at Harvard Business School, research on race and gender relations in organizations.

Morten Huse – Professor of Organization and Management of BI Norwegian School of Management, published widely on the topic of women and diversity on boards of directors.

Herminia Ibarra – Faculty of INCEAD, and expert on professional careers and leadership development.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter – Professor at Harvard Business School and listed as “one of the most powerful women in the world.” ( pictured left)

Mona Lena Krook – Assistant Professor of Political Science, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. An expert in Quotas for women in politics.

Terrance Odean – Hass School of Business and an expert in behavioral economics.

Scott Page – University of Michigan, Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science and Economics.

My takeaways in brief:

– The evidence for investing in women and girls in the developing world is conclusive and compelling. Create and fund programs that provide for economic their opportunity and security.

– Quotas Quotas Quotas. I am absolutely in favor of quotas for boards of directors of publically traded companies. Representatives were at the conference from Norway sharing how almost no one wanted it, but they did it, and it is having very positive impact. ( they have a 40% law) So many other countries are doing it and it is THE THING we can do to create huge positive change.

– The benefit of gender diversity in groups is nuanced. It is not just add women and better outcomes; it is about creating an inclusive environment which leads to better outcomes. This is the main reason why diversity programs have failed to deliver. We are adding women without changing the culture. PS – an inclusive culture is better for men too!

– Change has and always will be about power. Women have so much more then we are using. We continue to be asking permission when we should be demanding change. The research supports that change is good business.

– Overall there is just a huge and significant amount of research that makes the business case for women. I knew that, but this gathering solidified it for me. Even where there was not absolutely conclusive research of a diversity bump, it does not matter. Show me the other research that says conclusively that excluding women or keeping them a minority leads to better outcomes. The fact that in 2010 we still have to PROVE that we deserve a seat of the table is crazy. I mean really?!? Really?

It was a joy to meet the researchers that do the work that fuel my arguments and my passion. Hopefully soon I will have an updated research list of all their work but for now many of their studies are listed or quoted in the resource section of my website.

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