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StrategyJul 06, 2018

The Importance of Gender Intelligence

Andrew Warden

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) have been relatively hot topics these days. We are talking about this important issue a great deal at Credera. One of the focus areas I have been involved with over the past year has been gender diversity, and specifically, the concept of gender intelligence.

gender intelligence vs gender diversity

So what is gender intelligence, and what is the difference between gender diversity and gender intelligence? Think of it this way: Gender diversity is adding more of the opposite gender. For an organization like Credera in 2018, where men outnumber women significantly, that means adding more women.

Gender intelligence is knowing how to work better with people of the opposite gender. It’s understanding and appreciating the natural differences between men and women, and it goes beyond biological and cultural differences. Gender intelligence means that we understand the variations between brain structure and chemistry that influence thoughts and actions. It’s the awareness that differences in gender are first informed by nature, and then influenced by family, education, culture, and environment. Gender intelligence isn’t ignoring or merely tolerating differences—it’s celebrating them, embracing them, and understanding how to harness them to improve productivity, innovation, decision making and growth.

Gender diversity is obviously a very important goal for organizations. As we will demonstrate in a separate article, improving gender balance in the workforce is highly correlated with improved financial performance. Many technology firms (including digital consulting firms like Credera) are focused on improving the balance of women and men in their organizations. However, simply adding more female team members won’t be enough.

the value of gender intelligence

Organizations that are exclusively focused on the question of gender diversity, without understanding and applying gender intelligence will find themselves with a ‘leaky bucket syndrome’. They can continue to fill the bucket with water (adding more women, frequently at more junior levels), only to find that the “water” keeps leaking out of holes in the organization’s culture (the failure to understand how to appreciate and tap into the power of gender differences). This is why we see so many initiatives fail to increase the gender balance at all levels of organizations.

Gender intelligence is about the culture of an organization. It’s a way to not just bring more women to the table, but to ensure they want to stay. It’s a deeper commitment to equity throughout an entire organization and goes a lot further than simple gender diversity.  The authors of the book Gender Intelligence found in their extensive research on the topic that organizations cannot become gender intelligent and fully benefit from the economic value that comes to the organization and the personal and professional growth that comes to their employees (to prevent “leaky bucket syndrome”) without the presence of certain conditions.  The “Five Conditions for Success of a Gender Intelligent Organization” include:

  1. The CEO’s authentic commitment

  2. Led by a powerful and influential coalition

  3. Approached systemically and not as a singular initiative

  4. Approached with enterprise-wide resolve

  5. Guided by Gender Intelligence

gender intelligence at credera

We’re not just giving advice about this issue, we’re also working on it ourselves. Currently, we have several ongoing efforts to evaluate our progress and various opportunities for improving diversity and inclusion at our firm.

In order to get input across all levels, we formed a D&I task force led by our company president, with participation from multiple partners, management team members, and employees at all levels.

  • Entire sections of employee surveys are devoted to understanding where we are doing a good job and areas where we need to improve.

  • The topic comes up in company-wide meetings during question and answer sessions, and we don’t shy away from it. Being forthright and transparent is an important part of our culture, even if the answer isn’t always what we want it to be.

  • Maintaining a focus on diversity and inclusion is one of our five strategic initiatives for our current fiscal year—it’s that important and top of mind at our firm.

We know we haven’t solved this issue, but it’s a major priority moving forward.  In reality, all companies can improve in understanding and embracing their employees and their differences to foster more inclusion and belonging at work.  We believe improving D&I is the right thing to do – and we know this focus will not only create a better working environment for our employees, but it will also make us a better consulting firm to partner with for our clients.  Next week, we’ll dive into the Business Case for Gender Diversity.

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