The argument is clear: ‘More women in business equals better business’. The link between financial performance and gender diversity has been researched and reported on over the last decade and is now widely acknowledged to be a simple truth.
At the same time, however, high-profile attempts to accelerate women up the organisational ladder have had only a minor impact on diversity statistics. Shell became the latest corporate giant to admit the topic ‘needed a little bit more time’ when non-executive chairman Jorma Ollila said the company was still searching for “females who really have the ability to contribute” to the board.
So we asked the question: “are we missing something here?”
In a nutshell, the answer our research led us to is ‘culture’.
Organisational culture has been largely overlooked in the gender diversity debate. Research shows that a high-performance culture is critical to success, yet certain cultural conditions – such as long hours and a lack of flexible working – have been identified as barriers to greater diversity. Organisations may employ programmatic interventions to address these challenges, but the problems are often created by an ingrained workplace environment.
Studying the performance and workforce equality of 50 leading organisations, we asked, “what is the relationship between high-performance cultures, the number of women on executive teams and the gender diversity challenge? Are high-performance cultures and gender diversity mutually exclusive?”