Via William of Ockham, this article:
Bitcoin legal expert Carol Van Cleef recently told the World Economic Forum that at the North American Bitcoin Conference she noticed only five of the 300 to 400 delegates were women.
Here’s my theory: women tend to prefer, and do better in, large firms in established industries rather than in small organisations in emerging sectors.
For a woman attending a corporate event, there is nothing more glaringly obvious than being in the clear minority. There are times I have been at events when half the women present are wait-staff rather than guests.
Similarly, I’m usually the tallest person in every corporate event I go to. Where are all the other giraffes?
It’s a familiar story for many women who work in male-dominated industries. Some of the top tech companies in the world, like Facebook, Microsoft and Google, have less than 20% of tech roles filled by women and only about a quarter of their leadership roles.
Yeah, James Damore provided an explanation for this and it cost him his livelihood.
The reality is out of step with the data. Research shows that diverse teams bring higher returns, better long-term strategy and increased workplace engagement.
Firstly, I think the sources in that link deserve a thorough going over, but not in this post. Secondly, are we supposed to believe these giant tech companies, who are happy to sell people’s personal data to the highest bidder in order to steal an inch on their rivals, are leaving millions on the table because they don’t want to employ more women? This seems unlikely.
For tech companies that are striving to become the next unicorn, or at least hold out until the next funding round, it’s a wonder they aren’t clamouring for more women, more diversity and more innovative thinking.
Why yes, whatever can explain such strange behaviour?
Jeffery Hollender, professor of sustainability at NYU Stern, told Business Insider:
“The truth is you will perform better financially by doing things like having a great sustainability program, by having women on your board and in your senior management and by treating your employees well and ensuring that they’re owners of the company. Those things translate into better financial performance.”
If you follow the link, the basis of Hollender’s remarks is a study from 1986(!) which compared the performance of 45 companies that encourage employee stock ownership with similar companies that don’t encourage employee ownership. They found stock ownership schemes had “positive effects” on measures like growth and worker participation. So clearly we need to employ more women.
While it’s easy to understand the importance of diversifying investment portfolios some struggle to grasp the same need to reduce risk by diversifying your board membership and leadership team.
While it’s easy to understand you shouldn’t carry all your eggs in one basket, some struggle to grasp the need to carry a cow pat along with the eggs.
A recent study showed that while “homogeneous groups felt more confident about their decisions than diverse groups, the former groups’ decisions were more often wrong compared to those of diverse groups.”
If you follow the link you find that claim is based on this study, whose executive summary says (emphasis mine):
MSCI ESG Research’s research shows that companies in the MSCI World Index with strong female leadership generated a Return on Equity of 10.1% per year versus 7.4% for those without (as of September 9, 2015, measured on an equal-weighted basis), confirming previous research, though we could not establish causality.
Note that the MSCI World Index consists of giant corporations in each country; the article began by complaining of the dearth of women at a Bitcoin conference. Rather than the MSCI’s study being evidence that having women on boards brings about superior performance, I contend it shows simply that large, established corporations with plenty of money now employ more women. The other study cited in the linked article says:
Women’s presence in corporate leadership is positively correlated with firm characteristics such as size as well as national characteristics such as girls’ math scores, the absence of discriminatory attitudes toward female executives, and the availability of paternal leave. The results find no impact of board gender quotas on firm performance, but they suggest that the payoffs of policies that facilitate women rising through the corporate ranks more broadly could be significant.
Which is hardly going to send executives rushing to hire more women, is it? Back to the original article:
“We decided to put the work into surfacing amazing female candidates. We don’t believe in saying, ‘Hey, I’ll hire the best candidate from whomever shows up at my front door’,” Weebly cofounder and CEO David Rusenko told Business Insider. “It pays to put in a little more effort.”
Surfacing amazing female candidates? Isn’t that the sort of thing that landed Harvey Weinstein in trouble?
Deloitte matches senior leaders with ambitious female talent to not only get exposure to the work of the senior team but to create visibility across the board for the mentee’s skills and future trajectory.
So bright young women get showcased around the company by men twice their age? How progressive.
It also encourages women to expand their networks by leveraging those of the senior team throughout the program.
So how do young women go about applying leverage with older men?
And for many people, having the ability to tap into new networks in an encouraging environment can put women on the fast-track to a leadership role.
As Kamala Harris found out.
Sheryl Sandberg, who famously told women to “Lean In” to their careers, told USA Today:
“Endless data show that diverse teams make better decisions. We are building products that people with very diverse backgrounds use, and I think we all want our company makeup to reflect the makeup of the people who use our products.
I’m glad she’s not CEO of a company making anti-malaria drugs, or Boeing for that matter. And let’s remind ourselves, Sandberg didn’t get to run Facebook by being any good at tech. Yet her mere opinions are cited as evidence corporations need more diversity to succeed. This is what passes for business analysis in 2018.