Diverse leadership makes for more sustainable businesses… so where are all the women?

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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.

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.

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.

Source: Business Insider

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.

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.

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.”

Diversification: it’s a tricky one

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.

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.”

So, what can companies do?

It takes hard work to hire the right people.

“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.”

And once you’ve hired the right people, you also have to work to keep them there.

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.

It also encourages women to expand their networks by leveraging those of the senior team throughout the program. 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.

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.

“That’s not true of any industry really, and we have a long way to go.”

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