top of page
  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Adelaide Agenda: Adelaide Businesses Walking the Talk on Gender Diversity?

Dear Adelaide,

We need to talk. The gloves are off (or at least the boots are).

Nancy Sinatra put it well when she sang:

"You keep lying when you ought to be truthing

You keep losing when you ought to not bet

You keep saming when you ought to be changing

What's right is right, but you ain't been right yet."

You know the rest.

We hear so much about Diversity in the workplace. Here are a few facts from McKinsey:

  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

  • In the United Kingdom, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5 percent.

Interesting, isn’t it?

How about some sobering facts on South Australia’s top ten companies:

  • Number of Female CEOs = 0

  • Number of Female CFOs = 0

  • Average number of people in Executive Team = 6.5

  • Of which are female = 0.9

  • Total Female Representation in Executive Team = 16%

Pretty poor, isn't it?

We’ve been spending time researching our next White Paper which is due out at the start of September. We want to keep on the ‘Future of Work’ theme. The subject of the new White Paper is diversity and inclusion and how important they will be going forward.

Developments overtook us a couple of weeks ago, however, as diversity and inclusion hit the headlines with events at Google.

Recently a Google employee wrote a 3500-word internal memo listing differences between men and women saying the latter were less able to do engineering and leadership roles. Things like - women have higher a propensity to suffer from stress and are unable to do demanding client facing work involving travel.

Google’s CEO dismissed the employee saying he had breached the company code of conduct and basic values. Effectively, women were now unable to work alongside the author of the memo.

A storm subsequently took place on social media as supporters of both sides expressed their views. Google management say that most staff were supportive of their decision. Opponents say those who held different views were scared to speak-up. Some feel that the writer was a victim of the regime he was arguing against.

The incident has brought up the question of diversity and inequality in Silicon Valley; which is a topic that has been brewing for a while. Uber had problems earlier in the year.

Margaret Hamilton, a programmer, in 1969. She oversaw the code that enabled the Eagle to land on the moon that year.

It’s worth reflecting that in the 1950s (a time not known for it's "equality, diversity and inclusion"...)between 30 and 50 per cent of programmers were female. Now it’s about 20 per cent. The Financial Times report that the level went down in the 1980s with the arrival of the personal computer.

On the surface, this is leading to some depressing developments. For example, speech recognition technologies score worse when presented with female voices. Recent safety features in car testing protect men more.

Also, on the wider inclusion question, facial recognition technologies have a harder time detecting darker faces. ‘Who designs the products has a direct impact on who the product delights and who it disappoints.’ (See Financial Times: 9th August 2017).

The fact is that the type of argument outlined in the memo comes round time and time again.

Our view is that, although there have been many initiatives to encourage diversity and inclusion, much more work needs to be done.

As the demand for talented staff intensifies, companies will need to focus on raising levels of diversity and inclusion. Here are the two compelling arguments that senior managers should focus on when thinking about the subjects:

Business Results

There are vast amounts of research showing that diverse teams perform better.

For example, Katherine Phillips of Colombia University describes research where people work in one of two groups – one group consists of people from the same backgrounds and another includes people from diverse backgrounds. Time and time again diverse groups come to better solutions to problems – there is more questioning and conflict, differences of opinions and perspectives and less Group Think.

Homogeneous groups thought they had the right answers. However, the fact was that diverse environment encouraged people to think harder and challenge each other.


What does lack of diversity and inclusion say about the character of a company?

Companies in Silicon Valley are under pressure due to their performance in this area. As company cultures and working conditions become more transparent, poor companies will stand out. This will make them less attractive as places to work.

‘Companies should be committed to diversity and equality at first principle, to get the best from all its staff; this is a business priority as well as a moral imperative’. (Anne Marie Slaughter: Financial Times 12th August 2017).

Dear Adelaide,

There’s work to do. There’s a lot of talking…and not enough walking.

11 views0 comments


bottom of page