Women: The Best Stimulus Package
If you want a job done right, hire more women. According to data from Ernst & Young, Goldman Sachs, Columbia University, and Pepperdine University, having more women in senior management positions means higher profits for a company. So could turning up the estrogen level in big corporations be a lasting fix to the financial crisis that does not involve another bailout? That’s what Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of Womenomics, argued in yesterday’s Washington Post. They say that this latest data makes sense—after all, women are generally better at working with others, not to mention that we make more cautious decisions and think in the long-term, while guys are often about high-risk competition. Could the financial melt down of this year be the death of macho on Wall Street? [Washington Post] Kay and Shipman say it’s not as easy as replacing men with women—they argue for what they call “diversity prediction theorem,” meaning that a more diverse group is more likely to solve problems than one that’s all the same. It’s obvious women that think differently than men (Mars? Venus?) and being able to look at something in different ways is essential to a successful business.
This female factor has already begun to show promise internationally. Norway demands that every company have a corporate board comprised of at least 40% women. Iceland has given control of their ailing banks and economic policy to uber-capable females. And while Christian Lacroix has closed up shop, Hermes has flourished during these tough times due to its female management force.
But as fantastic as this news is, high-powered and well-educated women (more often than not) take time off, sometimes permanently, for another tough gig—a family. So to reap the benefits of having a more diverse workforce, businesses need to adapt to make it possible for women to have it all. Best Buy, Capital One and Wal-Mart have all started to allow certain employees to work from home, even at odd hours. And so far, productivity is up.
Personally, I couldn’t be happier with this news. It’s taken long enough for macho CEOs to realize that their female associates are business mavens—maybe knowing that having more women in the office will make them more money is all they need to break through old attitudes about gender and leadership. According to the economists over at Davos, the current economic mess we’re in may have been avoided if Wall St. hired more women. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.