How Gender Differences in the Workplace Can Boost Productivity and Improve the Bottom Line
When women first began to enter a workforce previously dominated by men, businesses across the globe were forced to examine gender in the workplace. Through the decades, that translated into many organizations seeking equality among male and female employees, using the premise that equal means “same.” Not only did different employees have the same intrinsic worth, but their sameness extended to how they relate to and lead others, think through ideas, and define success.
In our book, “Gender Intelligence: Breakthrough Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Improving Your Bottom Line,” Keith Merron and I share how the sprint toward equality in numbers and sameness thinking that began in the 1970s actually prevented a richer, more nuanced conversation around men’s and women’s differences and how they both play a valuable part in the business world.
“Gender Intelligence” insists on such a conversation, shifting the topic to gender uniqueness and its complementary value in problem solving, decision-making, and leadership. In our 30 years of experience across a variety of industries, this transformational conversation has altered the way organizations work and dramatically improved their business results.
Over the last 40 years, we’ve made huge strides to better understand gender and gender equality and know now that sameness is not the solution. Rather, today we have a greater base of knowledge about what underlies and defines the natural differences between people. This has allowed us to shift and adopt a revolutionary perspective, shaped by an awareness of the given strengths of men and given strengths of women. When those differences are each supported and valued—rather than ignored or repressed—each gender can offer a unique contribution, one that complements the other. More importantly, this collaborative approach promotes creativity, ensures productivity, and increases employee happiness. This is the heart of our work, and “Gender Intelligence” is proud to be a big part of this shift in perspective and process.
What Is Gender Intelligence?
The core of Gender Intelligence is rooted in science and focuses on gender uniqueness. Underpinning this work is research on brain structure and biochemistry that provides an objective framework for an understanding and appreciation of the natural differences between men and women.
Not only does this conversation alter the business landscape; it ripples out into our personal lives. Because we are whole people, we can use the ideas of Gender Intelligence to create a more accepting, more supportive environment with our colleagues and coworkers and also strengthen our relationships with friends and family. By having a solid understanding of how gender operates, we can embrace and engage one another’s differences to affect the world—both professionally and personally—in a positive, more powerful way.
Advantages of a Gender-Intelligent Organization
Beyond transforming ourselves and our ways of being, the business case for Gender Intelligence is proven. Companies that practice Gender Intelligence drastically increase their global competitiveness. By holding to a culture of inclusiveness, they are better able to see and harness the unique skills of a wider range of people. In short, they recruit and retain the best talent, make decisions more pertinent to a quickly changing world, produce more relevant products and services that mirror the expectations of an evolving marketplace, and achieve superior financial results.
Over the last 20 years, studies have shown that blended leadership on boards and executive teams improves the bottom line of companies—in some instances dramatically (http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/why_diversity_matters). And it’s not just at the top. Studies also show that gender diversity in teams encourages more innovation and brings a richer collection of viewpoints and perspectives to the decision-making process than can be found in a single-gender team, even one comprising high-IQ achievers exclusively. Teams containing a better balance of men and women demonstrate greater emotional perception, collective intelligence, and encouragement of ideas (“Collective Intelligence: Number of Women in Group Linked to Effectiveness in Solving Difficult Problems,” Science Daily, October 2, 2010, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100930143339.htm). That blend of perceptions and talents becomes a powerful advantage when customized to a company’s industry, clients, and customers.
Gender-blended teams in design, development, marketing, and sales are better able to shape their products and services to satisfy diverse market needs and expectations. A healthy blend of unique perspectives and talents becomes a powerful advantage when customized to a company’s particular industry and customer base.
Gender Intelligence in Action
A recent study by Fidelity Investments found that even when couples interact with a financial advisor, men are still 58 percent more likely than women to be the primary contact. That begins to explain why 70 percent of women will fire their financial advisors within a year of their husbands’ deaths. Not only did women report having difficulty getting the attention of their male advisors during meetings, they felt their investment and security needs were not being addressed (“Why Do Advisors Have Such a Hard Time Reaching Women,” http://www.cnbc.com/2015/02/02/sors-have-such-a-hard-time-reaching-women.html).
Smart companies eventually will take heed. One company that is listening and acting now is the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. One of the largest mutual life insurance companies in the U.S., Guardian currently is working with the Gender Intelligence Group (GIG) by conducting Gender Intelligent Workshops in agencies across the country. The company’s goal is to be first in the industry to bring Gender Intelligence to its leadership and full network of agencies, and to change the ways in which its financial advisors work with the public.
Guardian quickly has seen tremendous results. Vice President Emily Viner considers Gender Intelligence invaluable to recruiting more talented women and serving the needs of a changing and expanding marketplace. “Because of our focus, we’re seeing a significant increase in the number of women in mid-level management at Guardian, says Viner. “Male and female advisors are excited about applying their Gender Intelligence to client relationships and making a significant impact on the retention of clients.”
Employees have reported an improvement in working relationships, and there has been an increase in the percentage of women in leadership positions. More dramatic is how Gender Intelligence has increased the confidence and capability of Guardian’s financial advisors to meet the needs and expectations of their clients.
For 30 years, GIG has utilized cutting-edge research to develop best methods and powerful diagnostics for teaching, training, and assessment. GIG has held more than 8,000 corporate workshops, thousands of leadership assessments, and numerous executive coaching sessions around the globe.
In partnership with Pearson, GIG now offers e-learning programs for deep and lasting cultural change throughout organizations. BeGenderIntelligent is an engaging, multimodal learning experience that is intuitive for both learners and administrators. This dynamic format takes the employee from passive learning to effective retention, and uses proven, learner-centric methodologies to ensure successful engagement by both individuals and groups.
Gender Intelligence is an approach and practice whose time has come, delivering success for men and women in small consultancies, as well as large, complex multinationals. Companies that use Gender Intelligence increase global competitiveness, enhance customer-focused service, and improve the bottom-line.
They also ensure that every person, from the CEO to the newly hired employee, can work within an inclusive environment. They deliver a workplace in which every individual, management to maintenance, knows his or her unique contributions are valued. This type of empowering culture is modern strategy at work, with each individual’s diverse talents and perspectives benefiting the whole and, in turn, improving client engagement and profitability.
Barbara Annis, founding Partner of Gender Intelligence Group (GIG), is an expert on Inclusive Leadership through Gender & Cultural Intelligence, advocating the value and practice of this new type of leadership in Fortune 500 companies and numerous organizations worldwide. Her insights and achievements have pioneered a transformational shift in cultural attitudes across the globe on the importance of gender unity to organizational success. For more information on her book co-authored with Keith Merron, “Gender Intelligence: Breakthrough Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Improving Your Bottom Line,” visit http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062307439/gender-intelligence