At a conference organized by The Economist last September, Massimo d’Amore Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo Beverages Americas, Pepsico [PEP] outlined the impact having of a female CEO. This brought to light some staggering imbalances in Pepsico’s 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.
The incident sheds light on Women’s History Month, as the article of fellow Forbes contributor Ali Brown helpfully reminds us. The White House released a report yesterday entitled Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being, a statistical portrait showing how women are faring in the United States today and how their lives have changed over time.
The report reveals that women are working more than ever before and the number of women and men in the labor force has about equalized in recent years. 27% of working wives out-earned their husbands in 2008, compared with 18% in 1988. In general, shockingly, women still earn only 80 cents per dollar that men earn in comparable positions.
In her insightful article, Brown suggests three issues:
1. Women have to be given the right to work at home.
2. Women need to take their financial and families’ wellbeing into their own hands, and start businesses of their own.
3. Women need to BE the change they want to see.
The funny thing is that these are more than women’s issues: they are equally issues for men, issues for Gen-Y and above all, issues for the productivity of organizations. Organizations that don’t deal with them are going to be missing some of the best talent.
- It makes sense to hire women ahead of Einsteins: In team building, studies show that it’s better to choose women ahead of Einsteins. That’s because the collective intelligence of a group is not strongly correlated with the individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the proportion of females in the group.
- It makes sense to deploy women to handle social media: Women seem to be nimbler in mastering social media. My own take is that the revolution now under way in management is partly about a shift from one-way top-down communications to adult-to-adult conversations. Women are naturally better at the latter than men and, in Western culture, they get more practice doing it. So should it be any surprise that they take to it more easily?
- It makes sense to hire more women in startups. Do something about the stunningly low proportion of women in startups: While the number of women small business owners hovers around 50 percent, the number of women founders of hi-tech start-ups is in the low single digits. Angel investors need to wise up and realize that having women in the workplace is a key aspect of organizational performance.
Women are increasingly the talent
On September 14, 2010, the Washington Post reported 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, it’s not diversity that we are talking about. 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.
When women are 60% of talent and 90% of customers, it’s not diversity: it’s the future.
To learn more
If you would like to learn more about creating people-friendly workplaces for both men and women, please join Madelyn Blair, Deborah Mills-Scofield and others for two days on May 12-13, 2011 in Washington DC in a workshop that is all about cool, innovative and serious fun. More details here.