Everyone knows that diversity is profitable. The burning question is how to get diversity at the top. Which brings up a most divisive topic among women, men, and diversity experts.
In a guest post in Wall Street Week, Erika Karp, Managing Director and Head of Global Sector Research for UBS Securities LLC, “makes the case for a detour from the path of least resistance”, that is, the status quo. She talks about it being “painful”, “messy”, “loud”, and requiring a great deal of patience as the pay-off – profitable returns – aren’t immediately obvious.
My belief is that gender quotas are mandatory. But my take on it is from another perspective. Human rights. Similar to Steven Pinker’s contention in The Better Angels of Our Nature, I believe that once males and females are balanced at the top in business and politics, the global path we are on will almost certainly become more settled, less war-torn, more environmentally sensitive, and, profitable – for human beings.
It has been well-established that the reason for the lack of women on boards has more to do with the old boy network than gender related abilities.
The “loudest” argument against quotas I’ve heard (see recent 3PlusInternational guest post by Susan Popoola) is that women, “who are not truly qualified for a role being placed in a position just to meet numbers”.
Not only is this argument the unfounded opinion of many but, as Canadian government Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, says, “What is very frustrating is the thinking that the selection committee would not be smart enough to recruit the best possible candidates”.
There are qualified women!
What there is not is – willpower.
And I have a sneaking suspicion that there is another factor at play here. The “old boys” for the most part are not Machiavellian villains, hording power all to themselves.
They are afraid.
Afraid of dealing with an unqualified woman. Afraid of the “painful, messy, loud” process. Afraid of being part of a situation where they have to watch/deal with a woman who will be “harmed” in the process… or force changes on the board because she is qualified and has new ideas.
I look at it from a macro view, so I say, “Suck it up, Buttercup”.
To the men and the women.
Some women may be unqualified. Fix it – go find those women that CEO of Revera Inc. Jeffrey Lozon describes: “There was not one shred of hesitation that we wouldn’t find qualified [women]… The talent pool is enormous. It’s not a question of talent.”
Some women may be under-qualified. It happens. With new male board members as well. Fix it – create a thorough integration process for all new members. Provide a mentor.
Some male board members may be uncomfortable with sharing power with the opposite sex. Fix them – educate them on the benefits – the profitable benefits – of having a diverse board. Provide them with Catalyst Inc.’s statistics. Give them no choice.
And finally to the women. Fix yourselves – educate yourself, find a mentor, find a sponsor, get diverse networks – and never take “No,” for an answer.
Women’s talents are needed now more than ever.
Diversity is profitable, from a corporate perspective and a human one. Who can argue against that?