Profitable in Pink (and green and brown and blue)

I mentioned last week, that if you want to increase the collective IQ of a task-oriented group, then adding smart people won’t accomplish your goal. Adding women will. In fact, if you add people who are smart, but opinionated and domineering, all of those smart people will result in an unproductive group… unless you’re adding smart women.

Companies whose senior management is at least 30 percent female, are more profitable than companies with fewer women in senior management. Companies with a racially and ethnically diverse work force are more profitable. When it comes to the boards of directors, one study found that Fortune 500 companies with the most women on their boards out-performed companies with the fewest women on their boards by a margin of 53 percent on return on investment.

Another study reported in the Harvard Business Review looked at sixteen leadership traits across 7,280 “business leaders.” For twelve out of sixteen characteristics, the women leaders out-performed the men, and in two–taking initiative, and driving for results–women out-scored men by the widest margin.

Olympians Debbie MacDonald and Brentina

Now here (coming up soon) is the punchline: I’ve served on a mostly-female board, for a volunteer riding organization that had hundreds of members. I’ve served on a board of mostly guys for a church of nearly the same size. The riding board out-performed the church board by leaps and one-tempis.

I could go on, but the point is, when my riding board got an award for being highly effective, I shrugged, and thought, “Well, we’re a pretty go-ahead kinda group.” With the church board, I also shrugged, and thought, “I guess this is why my denomination does so much ‘church-planting.’ It’s easier to start your own group than resolve differences within the congregation.”

I never, not once, thought: Maybe women are better at management, leadership, and getting stuff done on behalf of an organization than men are. I thought my riding group was just a fluke. I thought the bogged-down, talk-in-circles church group was normal. The most effective group I’ve EVER come across is the Romance Writers of America, which is comprised largely of smart women. Just another fluke?

One of my all-time favorite books is The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn. The premise of this very readable little book–backed up by many examples–is that as a society, we see the new truth only when the cost of supporting the prevailing falsehood gets just too ridiculous. All the data in the world, all the studies and experiments, won’t get an idea accepted until the cost of hanging on to the old dogma grows too high.

I hope, when it comes to racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, we’ve reached that point. I hope the next time I see a diverse group, or a group of women, making something happen despite many challenges, I won’t think, “Well, must be another fluke.”

Because it’s not.

To one commenter, I’ll send a copy of The Structure… well, how ’bout not. How about I send a copy of Elias in Love? When have you doubted your own experience, only to realize in hindsight that you were right, it wasn’t a fluke, and you’re still right?









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17 comments on “Profitable in Pink (and green and brown and blue)

  1. AHA!

    I am on a committee at work which is made up of men and women. We have been tasked to test a new system and provide feedback. There are two men who step up for special (think high value for your review) assignments. I have known these two for years and they are “too busy” to complete the tasks. Each and every time.

    I was surprised that they were chosen to lead an important part of the project. They hadn’t attended any meetings. How could they be prepared? I knew it was a disaster in the making…and I was right.

    I am not sure why they were chosen to lead the project. The rest of the team delegates, collaborates and works towards a resolution. I think women are better active listeners and are more open to collaboration — so why not have a mix of people lead such a project?

    • That must be aggravating, to have the limelight going to the people who least deserve it, but those two are apparently talented at hoarding limelight. At least everybody else seems to put the job ahead of the office politics, and everybody else is onto those two jokers.

      Forward thinking companies have a step in the annual employee review that includes gathering feedback from co-workers. The first time I was asked to provide that feedback, I was a little taken aback–it felt like snitching. But then, I realized that the boss can’t see or hear everything, and he genuinely wanted to help his subordinates advance. Maybe that same process will result in your two limelighters developing some better collaborative skills.

  2. Thanks for posting about this. It made me feel good about my gender. There is strength in pooling talent and working for a common goal.

    There are also, unfortunately, women who rise to power who only imitate their male counterparts once they get there. I have seen all too many times women like this trod on their female coworkers whose talent or intelligence makes them feel threatened.

    • I see the same thing in the courtroom, Pam, as if the only way to measure up in a male-dominated environment is to ape the worst of the guys in all their worst particulars. I sometimes want to tell opposing (male) counsel. “You know how Madam Lawyer has a reputation for being hard to work with? How she’s always posturing and making an issue out of every issue? How she’s ALWAYS interviewing for the judgships, every time?…. Well, that’s exactly what the male four-fifths of the bar has modeled to her as the path to success. Looks pretty unprofessional on her, doesn’t it? Looks even dumber on the people who have a gender advantage in most workplaces…”

      Retirement from the legal profession looms at a holy grail.

  3. I work as one of a team of managers in a male dominated team (though oddly it’s more balanced at the senior levels). I find the women are more willing to take on the “admin” type tasks that keep the team running – e.g. scheduling training, chairing meetings, etc, and better on keeping up to date with any actions they agree to follow up on!

    • But why should the women keep getting loaded up with the admin tasks? If it’s necessary to get the job done, then it ought to be shared equally. I recall one guy I worked with–he was down a rung from me, but we did a lot of the same kinds of work.
      In ALL walks of life, this guy’s MO when faced with a dilemma was to stand around looking helpless until a woman rescued him. Whether it was printing out an email, solving his scheduling problems, finding the file he’d misplaced, or handling clients who showed up unannounced. He sashayed around like a competent professional, but in fact, he was a needy child of whom we all grew quite tired.
      Which never stopped him from applying for those promotions, every time.

      • I agree. And it bugs me no end that there was no pushbike from the level above us to ensure that things were more evenly shared. But it still mattered to ME that the team had training, so I wasn’t going to drop that ball.

        I eventually managed to get things reorganised so that the true “admin” part of booking training (finding dates and getting it in everyone’s calendars) sat with the support staff (still mostly women, but at least it’s appropriate for their job) so the only thing for the relevant manager to do was work out who was going to deliver said training and pass the list over.

        This change was implemented just in time for me to go on mat leave and pass the task off to one of the guys.

  4. I had a singing gig this morning. I had to drive a bit to get to this country church, on the outskirts of where the ‘burbs meets farmland. Many of the church members I met own farms or work them.

    What struck me most about this church was the women in leadership. Oh, the pastor was male and the music director who hired me is too but the rest of the leaders were women. During announcements, the homeless ministry–led by a women–talked about what they needed. Heads were nodded. They blessed some special blankets made for children in hospice, all made by one of their women’s circle. As well, there was an announcement about a newly formed group for women of all ages. Their first meeting is featuring a speaker on self-care. We all know those who care for others need to care for themselves so they are ABLE to care for others! That’s the downside of women in charge…sometimes, ya gotta know when to take of yourself!

    • You raise SUCH a good point. It’s fine for me to think women should be a natural fit with leadership roles, but those same women are earning at best $.80 on the white male dollar, single-handedly parenting 40 percent of our children, in two-parent households the women are still doing more than half the parenting and more than half the chores, while getting inferior health care and paying pink taxes.

      Women should be CEOs, and senior managers, and directors, and HOLD PUBLIC OFFICE… but they lack one thing that has made all of those objectives more easily attainable for men.

      Women lack wives.

      And thus the need for self-care for many of us borders on life and death. For now.

  5. My college roommate (female) always said she needed a wife. She married one, although he is male. However, they make an awesome team.

    Women tend to communicate better, are better or more experienced mediators and negotiators which leads to more efficient group work.

    I am always impressed, no, amazed and humbled when I see what a well-managed group can do. I don’t seem to have matured past, “I do it myself,” and “Does not play well with others.”

    • One of the points made in the article about group IQ is that the smarts of the individual members were not predictive of how effective the group would be. Some of the smarty-pants groups were useless, because skills have a bigger impact on group functioning than knowledge does. That’s encouraging to me, because we can all learn skills if we want to.

  6. Sometimes I think the owners of my company have heard of this study. The majority of the store managers are women. Actually, the majority of the employees through all the stores are women.

    We are regularly called upon to help people solve problems their pets are having related to both food/nutrition and behavior and most customers are more willing to listen to our recommendations because we show them that we care more about the animal and the owner than simply making money — women are better about showing the compassion our customers want. In my opinion.

    Over the years, I had many ‘discussions’ with my former manager about the best way to sell our products. He was and still is in favor of just telling customers that they must have something without always explaining why they should use it and how it will help their pet. I maintain most people want to know the how and the why and they need to know we want to help their pets no just make money. Making money results by gaining customer loyalty by helping them not by bullying them.

    • Nothing makes me leave a page, a retail establishment, a training environment faster than trying to scare me into buying your product. If the click bait headlines have done one thing for us, I hope they’ve made us more aware of how blatant manipulation has characterized much of the commercial environment.

      Hats off to you and your coworkers, for caring about the customers and the pets more than you do about sales quotas. I think you have the right of it: Build a relationship, and the revenue will steadily follow. Bully a customer, and you get one sale… maybe.

  7. To my mind it is not so much gender as desire. I work primarily with women, but we seem to stay stuck in old ideas, in my opinion. I went on a trip with a girlfriend, I gave a presentation for a voluntary organization, I was nervous, but I think it went well. We wanted to be there and we wanted to contribute in a positive way to our organization.

  8. When I began a job with a female boss, I was warned repeatedly by male friends and colleagues that she would be terrible to work with and ineffective. We worked together wonderfully and got a lot done. When she left for a professorship and a male stepped into the position, the whole thing began to unravel. The cooperative (and productive) environment disappeared and the project ultimately failed. Every female boss I have ever had I felt had good leadership and team building skills. I felt heard and valued and that alone increases job satisfaction. I can not say that about any of my male bosses.

    Not a fluke.

  9. Just starting Tremaine’s true love. I am wondering why the rest of the world use “flock” as the collective for sheep and Grace Burrows uses herd? It is extremely irritating.

    • Sorry to throw sand in your reading gears, Donna, because that’s something I would never do on purpose. I took a quick look at old Tremaine, and found 17 mentions of “flock” and three of “herd of sheep.” Sometimes, I need a variety of words to prevent what editors call echoes–the same word used over and over in close proximity. Then too, one of my jobs as a youth was tending sheep. I was a sheep herder, or a shepherd–not a sheep flocker–and that association stuck. There’s also a different connotation with herd–herd mentality–than there is with flock, which has more of a biblical overtone, and sometimes I’m aiming to make a point with my word choice that hits below the level of the literal sense.
      Then too, The Oxford English Dictionary, (which I do love), offers as one definition of herd:
      A company of domestic animals of one kind, kept together under the charge of one or more persons.
      Another definition is:
      A company of animals of any kind, feeding or travelling in company; a school (of whales, porpoises, etc.).
      Though there’s also a sense in which herds are bovines, and flocks are anything else (though I’ve never come across a flock of horses).
      Google n-gram shows an interesting spike in the term “herd of sheep” for British English in the year 1815, then a drop, then a steady climb to about 1940 followed by another drop to somewhat above the 1815 level–so I’m not the only person to use that phrase, even in British settings.
      I wonder if this isn’t one of those lesser-known Yank/Brit divergences, though. I’m off to do some research, because I LOVE questions like this!