Friday 10 May 2013

The Argument for Diversity on Startup Leadership Teams and in the Boardroom

Suzanne Grant, Championing Entrepreneurship in Arabia #women #youth #design

I recently had the privilege to be a keynote speaker at How Women Work Qatar (HWW Qatar).  The Conference is the Brainchild of Carolin Zeitler and developed with the support of the Qatar Professional Women's Network. The event aims to break down gender stereotypes and cultural biases. 

I was subtly waving the flag for entrepreneurship, and more loudly imparting the merits of women sitting at boardroom tables, amongst leadership teams and within communities. I am discovering that entrepreneurship and women are more closely intertwined than I originally considered, or they should be. 

It's not news that the strength of all groups and teams is greater than the sum of their parts, but it's less commonly known just how powerful creating diversity at leadership and advisory levels can be. Why this is true remains a mystery to many.  

So I did some homework after a help shout out on Twitter. The Credit Suisse Report on Gender Diversity explains why diverse teams function better: 
  • diverse groups bring broader perspective, 
  • diverse groups pay greater attention to detail, consider more data points and derive better solutions
  • a majority group improves its own performance when a minority joins the group
  • collective group intelligence improves when the style of interaction is more socially sensitive. Women are more socially sensitive and the communication dynamic of an all male group will change when women's voices are heard
  • more gender diverse boards tend to focus on customer satisfaction, clear communication, consider diversity and corporate social responsibility
  • male and female leadership styles and skills bring leadership balance to the group
  1. According to a NASA study, women's leadership styles can be characterised by task orientation, mentoring and the needs of others. All male teams are characterised by competitiveness,  and little sharing of personal concerns. 
  2. According to McKinsey studies, there are nine key criteria that define any good leader. Women apply five of these nine leadership behaviours more frequently than men. Women are good at defining responsibilities clearly and are strong at coaching and mentoring employees. Men are better at taking individual decisions and corrective actions should things go awry. 
The magic of diverse thinking, perspective and interactions can combine to fuel powerful results. When building boards of directors, advisory and leadership teams, when seeking mentors, the diversity card is far from wild and more a natural outcome of human behaviour. 

All diversity, including gender diversity, helps to build better teams, better businesses and when we listen to all voices within our communities, a better world. 

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