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Those of you familiar with our work will know that we are unashamed behaviourists: if you want people to change, change the rewards and the measurements! In the great debate about gender and financial performance, we already know that executive positions are more important than board positions – see this serious recent piece of research. We have now looked at another interesting scholarly article (health warning: contains serious amounts of advanced statistics…) which makes some fascinating distinctions. The study has tracked 20 years of articles making a business case for more women in business and applied some very rigorous filters to the conclusions. The authors are less impressed than most by the direct, black-and-white, impact of having more women on boards or in executive positions than your typical article. Areas which are absolutely clear cut are somewhat surprising: for instance, they establish that teams with a higher gender and racial blend do better in sales. They also demonstrate that gender rich teams perform better in growth mode than in cost-cutting mode. The real insight however is their perspective on climate: those companies which already have a favourable environment for mixed teams do much better than others. Another analysis then establishes that, in many companies, the numbers game has no impact if there is no culture change: if women cannot be authentic and bring those diverse styles and qualities, then the bottom line impact will be considerably reduced. If women, say in an investment bank, have to behave essentially like men in skirts, then there will be no financial benefit. In other words, unless you change the culture, you won’t get the profits. Obviously there is a degree of chicken-and-egg: more women will influence the culture but if you can’t influence the men to welcome the diversity through a clear culture change programme, then you will be diluting your efforts. This reflects what we have observed with our clients: a lot of wasted money on isolated programmes and a degree of frustration with lack of progress. Companies need to tackle the big picture and to embed change at all levels. It doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated: just well thought through. Talk to us if you want to find our more.

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