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A former Microsoft Ventures director explains how women make boardrooms more productive

When women enter the boardroom and engage in high-level discussions, there is an immediate and positive change in productivity, says Xero general manager and former Microsoft Ventures director James Maiocco.

The tech veteran is an outspoken supporter of female entrepreneurship and regularly volunteers his time to organisations like Women 2.0, a group that advocates diversity among employees, entrepreneurs, and investors in technology.

In his experience, Maiocco says executive conversations with women at the table “tend to be more professional and have better outcomes.”

He admits that men have a tendency to engage in elbow rubbing and locker room talk that at times can be unprofessional and unproductive, but says when women join the team, much of that unproductive behaviour disappears.

“With women and other diverse backgrounds at the table it brings a level of transparency and accountability,” Maiocco says. “We have jobs with a lot of responsibility and obligation. We should not be acting like kids in a locker room, and we should be getting down to business.”

Women are still dramatically underrepresented on boards, however. They hold just 18.8% of board seats at major American companies, according to the 2020 Women On Boards gender diversity index. In fact, there are 10 companies in the S&P 500, including Garmin and Discovery Communications, that still do not have any female board members.

Maiocco believes having more women and minorities at the table is better for business, since diverse opinions can save a company from embarrassing PR nightmares that often spring from bad assumptions made by a single governing demographic.

“Making sure the executive circles are inclusive of women and diverse backgrounds, in general, brings more opinions and better outcomes, because you are getting a look at something in a different way,” he says. “We are often blind to our own biases or assumptions because we might not even realise we are making them. The right voices at the table can question and correct those unintended assumptions.”

Over the last two decades, Maiocco says he’s seen firsthand that bringing women and other people of diverse backgrounds into executive roles and the boardroom consistently
leads to increased productivity and stronger businesses.

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