Women Leaders Better than Men at Cultivating Diversity

Business Leadership

By Sam Starnes

When it comes to increasing organizational diversity, women executives are much more effective than their male counterparts, according to Anuja Gupta, an assistant professor of management at Rutgers University–Camden.

“Women have been leaders of communities and families for centuries,” says the Rutgers School of Business–Camden research scholar. “In positions of leadership, they are well-suited to enhance and to bring about diversity in organizations.”

Gupta recently published an article, “Women Leaders and Organizational Diversity: Their Critical Role in Promoting Diversity in Organizations,” in the international journal Development and Learning in Organizations. It cites a major study of leadership competencies in 7,000 executives showed that women scored better than men in 12 of 16 competencies measured in the evaluation.

“Women outperform men in several key competencies: collaboration, inspiring others, motivating others, listening, and being accepting of others, for example,” Gupta says. “Many of these are nurturing competencies. If you put that in context of diversity, these competencies are the kind that enhance diversity.”

Gupta, who studies strategy and women’s leadership, says that developing diversity is a mission that organizations should not overlook. “Diversity has taken on the nature of a buzzword, but it is so critical in a global world where we have an influx of nationalities, cultures, and sexual identities,” she says. “Any workplace that wants to be a productive workplace going forward, it has to have a plan to deal with its diversity.”

She cites the prevalence and growing number of women and minorities in workplaces, a number which is expected to increase. In 2015, minorities made up 39 percent of the workforce in the United States, while 46.7 percent were women. By 2024, estimates are that 43 percent of the workforce will be minorities, and 47 percent will be women.

“Diversity has been studied in an organizational context for many, many years and the findings are very clear: diversity increases creativity, innovation, and leads to higher quality decision-making,” she says. “Organizations will need to be culturally inclusive to attract top talent and retain this talent. Diverse organizations can also create culturally competent workforces allowing them to be more effective in relation to their customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders, who may be diverse on many dimensions.”

In spite of the body of evidence that shows the benefits of diverse workforces, Gupta says leadership positions at the top remains dominated by men. She cites a statistic from May 2018 that show less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs were women, and only 20.2 percent of board members of those companies were women.

She says women managers often don’t move up into the highest levels, but that they get stuck in middle management. The Rutgers–Camden management scholar adds that organizations need to strive to include women when promoting managers into executive positions. “The greater representation of women at the lower and middle levels in organizations presents an opportunity to organizations to tap into their unique skills and style at the top to benefit the entire organization,” she says.

Gupta also serves as a senior fellow at the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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