As soon as someone utters the words “gender diversity,” it can be easy for a time-pressed leader to tune out. Or, for that matter, an Inc.com reader. Please don’t tune out just yet.
While most reasonable people agree that gender diversity initiatives are a plus, they can often feel like a nice-to-have compared to board demands, investment decisions, and personnel management. And, there is real cause for concern that the cost of these programs will outweigh the benefits.
Yet gender diversity programs are important specifically because they more diverse companies are proven to perform better financially. Morgan Stanley research recently found that companies that are more gender diverse deliver better financial performance than those that are less diverse.
According to Eva Zlotnicka, a sustainability analyst at Morgan Stanley: “We believe gender diversity across the corporate workforce can impact company valuation through increased employee productivity, greater innovation, more customers, higher talent retention, and better risk management.”
Several companies have embraced this thesis wholeheartedly, and are leading the way with elaborate programs. Accenture has announced a target of 50 percent gender diversity by 2025, and sponsors an annual company-wide International Women’s Day celebration. Microsoft has incorporated team diversity as a component of executive bonuses. Dell sponsors an idea competition through its employee resource group. PwC has invested in leadership skills development programs for high-potential women.
While some of these initiatives may seem costly, successful diversity programs for women don’t need to be grandiose.
Many other companies take a more conventional path to driving gender diversity at their company–including instituting Women’s Employee Resource Groups. While at times these groups can be viewed as wasteful or ineffective, when executed well, Women’s Networks drive motivation, performance and engagement.
Why are women’s initiatives worth the time and money? Success in gender diversity is not just about how many women are within your walls; it’s about making sure they are adequately represented and engaged. As a report from Bay Area tech leader Salesforce found, “Employees who feel their voice is heard at work are nearly five-times (4.6X) more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.”
Whether your company is taking its first baby steps toward gender diversity programming or you are looking to take bold strokes, here’s why your investment in gender diversity programs will pay dividends: