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Diversity Leaders

Global Leadership Forecast 2018

Diversity Leaders:

How Top Organizations Are Growing Strong with Women in Leadership

Stephanie Neal

Worldwide forecasts call for women to effect significant, increased economic and financial impact in the next decade, both as consumers and investors. Organizations have much to gain by engaging and leveraging female perspectives within their workforces, and there’s plenty of room to grow as women still comprise a minority within leadership circles. According to demographic data gleaned from more than 2,400 organizations around the globe, women currently inhabit less than one-third (29 percent) of all leadership roles, with the large majority being in first-level management positions. Our research reveals that companies that have reached an above-average level of gender diversity overall (at least 30 percent) and at the senior-level (more than 20 percent), outperform diversity laggards in key leadership and business outcomes. What can we learn from these diversity leaders, and what are they doing differently? The graphic below depicts key practices that enable a stronger pipeline of women at each leadership level.

Diversity Leaders

Don’t Single Out Women, Or Anyone

Our research shows that companies that have achieved a stronger balance of gender diversity sustain an advantage beyond the numbers. Their leadership strategy relies not on meeting any single demographic target alone, but in integrating diverse perspectives into people, product, and business decision making companywide. Beyond succeeding with diversity-enabling practices identified in the graphic, they stand out in two key ways:

  • Inclusion is embedded within their culture. Leaders from more gender-diverse companies indicated that maintaining multiple and diverse perspectives is critical to achieving success. They were twice as likely as their low-diversity counterparts to report that their leaders work together to create new solutions and opportunities, and that multiple perspectives determine success. They also reported a higher level of collaboration across organizational boundaries. Leaders from more gender-diverse organizations were 1.5 times more likely to work across organizational boundaries and create synergies in their efforts.
  • Their leaders operate with different mindsets, not skill sets. On average, leaders from more diverse organizations weren’t particularly more skilled in any single leadership area. Rather, they were more likely to demonstrate a strong focus on personal development. This development mindset is enabled by organizational practices that emphasize high-quality development planning and more regular conversations on personal development.

Succeed with an Inclusive Approach

Impact of greater gender diversity

This collaborative, integrated approach to growing leadership diversity translates to beneficial people and business outcomes. Diversity-leading organizations were rated by their leaders as:

  • Having higher-quality leadership.
  • Being faster-growing and more agile than their more homogenous counterparts.
  • More likely to experiment and embrace failure in pursuit of different and innovative approaches.

Their successes also translated to an impact on the bottom line. Organizations with greater gender-diversity were 1.4 times more likely to have sustained, profitable growth.

Where to Start
  • Seek the best recruiting sources. Continuously evaluate the different channels leveraged for recruitment, and seek new ones. You can’t grow diversity if you’re not creating new ways of getting new perspectives into the building.
  • Hire and promote for diversity. Leverage valid, reliable data on employee capabilities and personalities to guide hiring and promotion decisions.
  • Seek out and encourage under-leveraged talent. Encourage leaders to seek different perspectives for new projects and reward teams that harness inclusion of multiple perspectives to generate new ideas and solutions.
How to Excel + Differentiate
  • Reframe diversity goals. Not all diversity is easy—or possible—to measure. It’s important to consider and value the potential impact of any different backgrounds and experiences that leaders can bring.
  • Encourage knowledge-sharing through mentorship. Provide new and early leaders with mentors from outside their own functional areas to encourage learning and exchange of diverse ideas.
  • Continue to grow diversity. Provide high-performing women with stretch assignments to continue building their skills and cross-functional knowledge.
Talk to an Expert: Diversity Leaders
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