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StrategyJul 26, 2018

The Influence of Gender Intelligence

Alex Moore

The authors of the book Gender Intelligence, Barbara Annis and Keith Merron, have been applying gender intelligence for more than 25 years. They have worked closely with over 100 Fortune 500 companies to help them view gender equality from a strength-through-differences standpoint rather than as equality in numbers. Gender intelligence is basically about recognizing, valuing, and leveraging differences rather than equalizing those differences. As knowledge of and belief in gender intelligence continues to grow, more companies are taking notice of the results their competitors are realizing from employing gender intelligence principles.

There are countless examples of how gender intelligence is making an impact on companies and their business results—for just one example, see my previous post, The Business Case for Gender Diversity. But I’ll focus this blog post on how gender intelligence, when applied, promotes balanced leadership and enables a stronger understanding of clients.

promoting balanced leadership

The authors of Gender Intelligence have found that the pattern of thinking in business for the longest time held that men and women should lead in the same way—like men. However, both business and scientific research show that there is no truth in the belief that women want to lead as men do or need to if they want to find success.

Studies show that in a more fluid and uncertain business world, the quality of leadership needs to change in order to evolve along with the market. Men and women share a different, though complementary, set of leadership behaviors that are crucial to overall organizational performance.

Organizations need balanced leadership the most when they are tempted to go back to the old ways of being and doing. To keep up with market changes, companies must focus on building the future of leadership—one that is more distributed and collaborative than centralized and hierarchical. If you have a greater balance of women and men in leadership, you are actually on track to accelerate evolution.

The presence of women in leadership helps change the conversation and nudges the company toward a critical shift in thinking. Gender-blended teams provide a wider array of solutions from which more balanced decisions can be made. In particular, research shows that when women are present the dynamics of the discussion and the quality of the decision-making increases the range of issues raised and includes fully different perspectives.

“Research also demonstrates boards with women are more likely to pursue best practices in areas including board evaluations, codes of conduct, conflict-of-interest guidelines, and closer looks at executive remuneration arrangements—all areas that shape company culture.” –Gender Intelligence

This also leads to results: According to Gender Intelligence, companies with more women serving on the board of directors performed better financially than companies that didn’t. When those companies are ranked by the percentage of women on the board, the top quartile beat the bottom quartile in three areas:  return on equity (by 53%), return on sales (by 42%), and return on invested capital (by 66%).

stronger understanding of clients

According to the authors of Gender Intelligence, professional services firm Deloitte always had a prevalence of men in top positions at their firm. They felt it made sense to have mostly male partners—most of their clients were men. Because of this, the assumption was made that men are more successful in the consulting services industry: Men think alike, so their clients prefer working with men! While men do tend to communicate in similar patterns, Deloitte had an “aha!” moment in realizing that male and female leaders in companies don’t choose their consulting partners based on gender.

“Decision makers are looking for consultants who listen, are understanding, encourage dialog, and are resourceful. After investigating this issue, Deloitte discovered how and why women partners could be quite effective, and in some instances, even more effective than their male colleagues in advising and addressing the needs of Deloitte’s clientele.” –Gender Intelligence

We are grateful to work with so many diverse leaders among our clients—and we know that Credera’s own diverse consultants have a huge impact on the dynamics of our client partnerships. Without diverse perspectives internally, we would not be able to empathize with so many of the diverse perspectives we work with externally—enabling us to understand our clients better and strengthen our business relationships.

getting started with gender intelligence

Here at Credera, we are working toward embracing our diversity and creating a more inclusive environment so we can see results from balanced leadership and a stronger understanding of our clients. In these efforts, we wanted to build a foundation for our company’s understanding of gender diversity and gender intelligence. Knowing many of our employees appreciate facts and logic, we realized a great starting point on the topic of gender intelligence was studying the science behind it and, specifically, how our brains are different. Next week, we’ll be covering the topic of the brain in detail. For now, if you’d like to learn more about our Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, please contact us at findoutmore@credera.com.

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