When women are 60% of talent and 90% of the customers, it's not diversity: it's the future.
At the conference in mid-September in New York organized by The Economist, there was a fascinating panel on the topic of “Intellectual diversity in an open world”. The discussion was meant to focus on
- How open innovation is changing the way we work
- Global perspectives on managing a global workforce
- The state of the talent war
The moderator: Vijay Vaitheeswaran, Global Correspondent, The Economist, and the panelists were:
Massimo d’Amore, Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo Beverages Americas
William Clifford, Chief Executive Officer, Spencer Trask
Zabeen Hirji, Chief Human Resources Officer, RBC
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, Chief Executive Officer, 20-first
In fact, the conversation mainly focused on the rold of women. The discussion began in earnest with Avivah Wittenburg-Cox asking: If the conference which had begun with some big name male thinkers, moderated by erudite male moderators, would the discussion in any way have changed? In substance? Or in tone?
She suggested that the tone at least would have been different: there wouldn’t have been quite so much of the competitive, combative, tone of the moderator’s questions, with all of the masculine energy that women love so much. She attends women-dominated conferences where a lot of energy is spent putting people at ease, so that conversation could flow, rather than putting people on the spot and demanding answers.
Massimo d’Amore offered a fascinating glimpse into the world of Pepsico and the impact of a female CEO. This had brought to light some staggering imbalances in hiring practices. It turned out that 90% of the buyers of Pepsico’s products were women, but most of Pepsico’s buyers had been men. As a result of the discovery of this mismatch, there had been massive staffing changes to Pepsico’s buyers to get more balance between the gender of the customers and the gender of the buyers. It was obvious that a wholly-male workforce of buyers would be less likely to understand the needs of customers who were 90% women. This wasn't an issue of diversity as much as it was an issue of competence.
There was much discussion of the Washington Post article of September 14, 2010, which noted that For the first time, more women than men in the United States received doctoral degrees last year, the culmination of decades of change in the status of women at colleges nationwide.
The number of women at every level of academia has been rising for decades. Women now hold a nearly 3-to-2 majority in undergraduate and graduate education. Doctoral study was the last holdout - the only remaining area of higher education that still had an enduring male majority.
Women have long outnumbered men in earning master's degrees, especially in education. Women earned nearly six in 10 graduate degrees in 2008-09, according to the new report, which is based on an annual survey of graduate institutions.
With these kinds of numbers, there was a sudden realization in the discussion: when women are 60% of talent and 90% of customers, it's not diversity that we are talking about: it's the future. We are looking a very different workplace that is emerging. It is a workplace where male enclaves will be increasingly put in question and where women can be women and bring to bear their different attitudes, perspectives and insights.
Overall, this augurs well for innovation and radical management. Learn more at:
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