In today’s world, most industries remain divided along gender lines.
Tech, for example, remains widely male-dominated, while teaching and nursing are mostly populated by women.
Although accepted as something of a status quo, this is more damaging than many of us realize. And it would benefit everyone — from company founders to everyday consumers — to do something about it.
In any workplace, gender diversity increases both productivity and effectiveness, which enhances the end product.
Look, men and women are different. Although it may be taboo to point that out, it’s true. There’s no denying it.
But that’s not to say that either gender is inherently more qualified than the other. Rather, men and women bring to the workplace different perspectives, experiences, and tendencies. When utilized in complement to each other, it improves a company’s general capacity.
If in your company’s boardroom, for example, you rely solely on a male executive who’s tenacity — while extremely beneficial in sales — sometimes inhibits your ability to sustain client relationships, that’s a liability. But if you combine that executive’s tenacity with a female executive’s increased emotional intelligence, say — well, it doesn’t take a psychologist to see how the two balance each other out.
Beyond potentially stereotypical intellectual attributes, though, women and men also possess inherently unique life experiences — and that’s equally critical.
Simply put, you need that balance — that push and pull. It helps you find the right center. Just as Lennon and McCartney created genius works of art by tempering each others’ more damaging impulses, so, too, do diverse teams balance each other out to more effectively and consistently create quality products and sustain important relationships.
It’s important for men to realize that bringing women into the workplace won’t harm you in any way — and vice versa.
I’ll note here that one roadblock which often slows diversity is the unfounded fear that increased diversity might somehow hurt one’s current standing. For example, by lowering your income.
But that fear has no backing. In fact, it’s been shown that men’s income actually rises when there’s greater inclusion of women in the workforce.
A key step in paving the way toward increased diversity, either in the company you run or the company you’re employed by, then, is rejecting this misconception. It starts by lending credence to facts rather than fears.
It works both ways, though. Often, society harps on the need for male-dominated industries to more purposefully include women. However, female-dominated industries need to do the same with men — at least, in order to truly diversify industries across the board.
It is immensely beneficial, for example, to have more male teachers working in classrooms.
Sure, this requires rejecting certain long-held beliefs and anxieties. The key is putting the company — or the kids, in this case — first.
The best way to recruit and retain the opposite gender is to sit down and listen to them. Seek to treat everyone in the room equally.
For those of us who want to do this — who believe in the factual importance and benefit of gender diversity — there remains the issue of how, exactly, to optimize for it.
Of course, that’s a question with a laundry list of answers, but it starts with strategic changes to our models and means of recruitment and retention.
In my experience running World Changers, the key to increasing diversity is putting an emphasis on recognizing each individual contributor for the work they themselves do — and prioritizing outcomes above all. That’s the sort of environment everyone wants to work in, male and female. One in which they know they’ll get recognition for the great work they do — where they won’t be discredited or discounted because of what they look like, who they are, or where on the proverbial corporate totem pole they reside.
But of course, beyond that, you also do have to prioritize diversity in your recruiting efforts. You must invest in it on a leadership level by making sure your recruiters are considering resumes from a diverse pool of applicants and looking specifically to ultimately assemble diverse teams.
Encouraging gender-diversity from the top
It must be intentional, or else it won’t happen.
You as a leader also need to encourage equality in your workplace once those recruiting efforts are complete.
This, then, is the last step — as the buck begins and ends with you.
If you’re running a company today, know this: your company will only ever be as diverse and equitable as you want it to be.
So, as a leader in the workplace, how can you create and cultivate a culture which appreciates diversity and respects it? Among other things, you can:
- Work actively to promote internal collaboration across teams. (When individual teams work in silos, that discourages diversity.)
- Hold team-building activities during which folks who perhaps naturally congregate in cliques get the chance to know other folks on the team.
- Educate employees regularly on the importance of diversity and why it’s so important to you as a leader.
If this sounds like a lot of work to you, remember: diversity doesn’t just benefit those you hire. It ultimately benefits your bottom line, too.
This piece was originally featured in Crunchbase.