Gender equality is good for all

Bad bosses – and difficult employees – come in all shapes and sizes – skirts and trousers.

However, it appears that when it comes to ‘good’ bosses and employees in the broadest sense – those who have the most appropriate personality traits, the keenest intuition and the strongest competitive factors for success in the 21st century, women come out on top.

Why’s that?

First off: research shows that cognitive skills are the number one indicator of performance in the workplace. ‘Cognitive skills’ refer to the ability to assimilate knowledge, understand and handle increasingly complex information and the overall ability to learn. So, a college graduate – especially one with a good degree level – would show up well here.

To see how well women perform on this first parameter, let’s look at the picture in the U.S.

In the United States, women outpace men in college enrollment by a ratio of 1.4 to 1 and they generally perform better academically.

 According to Thomas DiPrete, co-author of ‘The Rise of Women’ and a sociology professor at Columbia University: ‘We’ve seen astonishing change over a very short historical period. Starting with the people born around 1950, the rate of men’s bachelor’s degree completion stopped growing, and it stayed stagnant for years. In 1970, twenty percent of men and fourteen percent of women finished college. By 2010, women’s graduation rates had “skyrocketed” to thirty-six percent, while the rate among men grew only seven points, to twenty-seven percent.’

The second reason supporting the value of gender equality is that research shows that appropriate behavioral attributes rank second to cognitive skills as an indicator of performance at work.

‘Appropriate behavior’ in the workplace will, of course, mean different things depending on the level of the position – from the ability to lead, to collaborating effectively within increasingly diverse teams.

At the top of an organization, the most effective leaders exercise what co-authors, Professor Robert Goffee and Gareth Edwards term ’tough empathy’ in their excellent book: ‘Why would anyone be led by you’

How do women fare in this regard?

Very well, actually. Due to their biological make-up, focused on nurturing, women have a running start when it comes to altruism, empathy and collaboration.

Now, that’s not to say that all women exhibit appropriate behavioral traits. Far from it.

However, the research findings are intriguing.

Piecing the two elements of cognitive skills and appropriate behaviour together allows us to draw interesting conclusions.

The authors of  ‘The Rise of Women’ explain it like this:  ‘Beginning as early as kindergarten, girls have better average social and behavioural skills than boys, and that relates to girls’ higher average grades at each stage of school and why girls are more likely to earn a degree.

Claudia Buchmann, co-author and sociology professor at Ohio State University explains: ‘The grade gap isn’t about ability. It’s really more about effort and engagement in school.”

So, on the top two parameters for success in the workplace, which translate to higher productivity and profitability for companies, women score higher than their male counterparts.

And better performance justifies higher rewards.

Not just ‘equal’ rewards. Higher rewards, right?

But that’s another story.      

When sharply honed cognitive skills and appropriate behavioural traits are combined in teams, you’ve got first division talent – a competitive secret weapon that the smartest companies recognise and use systematically.

If that’s so, why is gender inequality the norm in so many organizations?

Experts suggest that the reasons range from cultural bias to an apparent ‘comfort zone’ preference on the part of males, from kindergarten up, where competition is only acceptable when it comes from other males.

Competition from females is disconcerting and requires a different sort of effort to defeat – such as subtext, innuendo and discrimination.    

So, as regards ambition, intelligence and learning ability (cognitive skills) and the appropriate behaviors – both key factors for career progression and success at work – smart women do indeed make the grade.

And savvy companies know that gender-equality policies are strong attractors of smart women. The result being a more creative workplace and a stronger competitive position.

So,what’s not to like about gender equality?