Growth is a challenge for Australian businesses in 2020 more than ever. That makes it inexplicable that three out of five companies are overlooking the opportunity to potentially add double-digit growth to their innovation revenue by embracing gender diversity.
I'm a male business executive speaking to those other male executives who still need to hear this message. The naysayers are wrong. Diversity does, indeed, have a measurable impact on performance.
The companies that address gender equality head-on are also generally the most innovative, fast-growing, and enduring. The study I mentioned above that found most companies are not diverse is from the Harvard Business Review. It also established that companies with above-average diversity have 19% points higher innovation revenue and 9% points higher EBIT margins. Nine points of EBIT is a significant dividend for doing the right thing.
Stop excluding half of the best minds
This is finally the time for tech companies to tackle the lack of gender diversity in their organizations. (Exclusion and inequality are not limited to gender, but gender is what I will focus on here.)
While I am writing for Australian readers, I don't mean to criticize Australian companies above those of other regions. While progress at times seems excruciatingly slow, Australian companies are far from being the worst performers in terms of diversity.
In2020 it finally seems that equity, inclusion, and diversity have made it to the top of the list for business leaders and entrepreneurs. The United States, after all, has just elected a female vice president.
In the context of the Asia-Pacific, Australia is -believe it or not- a leader on gender diversity. That fact reveals how far the entire region still needs to progress. A report from the Australian Institute of Company Directors shows that women now account for 32 per cent of ASX 200 company board positions.
To give you a sense of how we compare to the region around us, the Southeast Asian gender diversity leader is Vietnam, where women hold one quarter of CEO and board-level positions. In the rest of Southeast Asia, that ratio is just 12 per cent.
The Group CEO of one of Asia's leading banks, Bill Winters of Standard Chartered, put it wellearlier this year.
"We're in a war for customers," he said, "a war for service, a war for talent all the time. How could we possibly expect to win if we're limiting our pool of talent to half the population?"
People who believe women are not capable of the highest levels of performance in business (and there are still some of these people) are ignorant of the facts. Look at technology, for example, a field where many men prefer to believe they have an inherent advantage. They don't know that the entire field of software was invented by a handful of women-not men. Women were the world's first programmers.
At the time, the blinkered men in charge valued hardware above all. (The same thinking in 1980 led IBM to disastrously permit young Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft to license their PC operating systemto other computer manufacturers.)
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