Organisations with women at the helm perform better (so they say)

I was reading through an article the other day and noted the phrase: “All the research suggests that businesses perform better if you have a critical mass of women in the senior ranks. It’s right that businesses focus on that” (Source)

I’ve seen the same or very similar comments advanced elsewhere, generally in the absence of citation of actual research. It brings to mind another much-used feminist mantra: “The overwhelming majority of domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women”. It’s like, well it’s sounds right, it’s been stated by some well-known feminist/s, thus we should accept it and just move on.

So moving right along … I watched a segment on the morning TV show ‘Sunrise’ this morning, as it had been promoted as being about how companies that had women at the helm performed better. Allegedly proved via the results of a “new international study”. They also mentioned that the tired old issue of the gender pay gap would also be addressed.

The Sunrise Facebook page (17 August 2014) states:

“The companies that perform best financially have the greatest numbers of women in leadership roles, according to one of the most comprehensive workplace studies ever undertaken.

The study looked at 2,000 organisations in 48 countries, but is not the first to suggest that women leaders boost a company’s financial performance. The study showed that women only hold 28% of leadership positions, despite the fact that lucrative companies had a higher percentage of women leaders.

In Australia, men are paid on average 17.1% more than women to do the same job. Less than 5% of our top CEO’s are women. Why do you think this is the case?”

The discussion was between the ‘Sunrise’ hosts and two women:  Margie Warrell and Nicki Gilmour. Very early on in the segment Nicki stated “well I [haven’t seen] didn’t do the study and I’ve [only] seen it briefly“. Huh? I thought it was central to the segment?

I went hunting for details of this research, and then posted queries on Twitter (to Sunrise and Margie Warrell) and the Sunrise Facebook page seeking a URL for the study in question. Nothing, so I emailed the Sunrise production team to ask the same question on 18 August 2014. Nil response … ever … you can draw your own conclusions from that.

margie4

So I guess I have to ask … just how desperate were the ‘Sunrise’ production team to milk the gender issue that they chose to run with this story? Is it really good enough (in the media’s eyes) to just assert something without producing any tangible evidence to support it?

I am aware of some related research within the web site of Mike Buchanan, but the studies he cited found the opposite relationship to be true (i.e. bringing women into senior roles sometimes had a negative impact on company performance). See for example:

http://c4mb.wordpress.com/improving-gender-diversity-on-boards-leads-to-a-decline-in-corporate-performance-the-evidence/

http://c4mb.wordpress.com/our-public-challenges-of-high-profile-proponents-of-improved-gender-diversity-in-boardrooms/

http://c4mb.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/a-remarkable-statement-by-a-leading-proponent-of-improved-gender-diversity-in-the-boardroom/

I am also aware of the 2011 study undertaken by the Reibey Institute in Australia. That survey is different, however, in that it only looked at the difference in performance between companies that have no women directors versus those that have at least one. That also seems to have been the case with another study undertaken by Credit Suisse (see also actual study here).

Clearly many variables need to be identified and accounted for when attempting business comparisons such as these, other than simply ‘Performance’ versus the presence of a woman on the board. Even were this hurdle competently addressed in the above-mentioned studies, it could not be said that the presence of additional women on the board (and/or in senior management, as the case may be) would result in further incremental improvements in performance. This is an important point bearing in mind that those who raise this topic often do so in the context of talking-up the concept of gender quotas.

The Business Council of Australia 2013 report entitled ‘Increasing the Number of Women in Senior Executive Positions‘ also mentions the Catalyst Group survey in the USA, but this doesn’t appear to track relative business performance. Mike Buchanan also mentions the Catalyst Group study in one of his blog posts where he states:

“In all the reports we’ve analysed – including those from the feminist campaign group Catalyst, to which Ms Sunderland refers – it’s made crystal clear that correlation [between business performance and having women on the board] isn’t evidence of causation, and can’t even be taken to imply it.”

Additionally, a double-standard seems to apply when the CEO/politician in question fails to perform. When it’s a woman, a defence is often mounted on the basis that criticism was due to sexism. Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton are two classic examples. In the case of men, such a claim would be extremely unusual.

I don’t have an axe to grind about whether board members or senior staff are male or female, only that the decision should be based on qualifications, skills and experience. And if they subsequently fail to perform then they should be shown the door. Again, regardless of gender.

What I do object to is the media, or others in a position to influence or educate, presenting as reality some belief or another that has yet to be substantiated via fact-based analysis. That, and having the credibility bar set at widely differing levels depending on the extent to which the particular view being espoused falls within current-day parameters of political correctness.

In closing, I remain unaware of any suitably rigorous studies that make a sufficiently strong case that more women in a business = stronger performance. Should a reader know of some then please advise accordingly.

See also:

Female leaders are valued over males – Evidence from almost 100 studies (21 October 2017) Reddit discussion thread and linked academic paper

High-ranked women less generous than men when sharing a reward with their collaborators (10 October 2017)

Christine Nixon’s cries of sexism deflect from her shortcomings (27 July 2017)

Manchester International Festival: Putting women in control of the world (5 July 2017) No reader’s comment permitted, but some discussion on Twitter with a very similar article running in The Guardian.

Diane Abbott – the woman Corbyn trusts to protect Britain from terrorists – embarrasses herself in new car crash interview (6 June 2017) UK

Though Outnumbered, Female CEOs Earn More Than Male Chiefs (31 May 2017)

More on Eman Sharobeem’s rorting (17 May 2017)

Community health boss ‘rorted’ holiday, jewellery, gym (1 May 2017) Australia

“A contender for the NSW Australian of the Year awards rorted more than half a million dollars in public funds while she was in charge of two publicly funded community health organisations, a corruption inquiry has been told.”

Women hate being CEOs – and they suck at it (8 April 2017) with a follow-up article entitled ‘Do men make better CEO’s than women?’ here.

The blokey culture of finance means we’re missing out on a mountain of ability (18 January 2017) Australia needs a female Treasurer because some qualified women feel hard done by (as do some men), because a woman would do the job better, and well … because.

Arlene Foster describes calls for resignation as ‘misogynistic’ (4 January 2017) Northern Ireland

Argentina ex-leader Cristina Fernandez charged in corruption case (27 December 2016)

#Girlboss author Sophia Amoruso speaks about Nasty Gal’s bankruptcy and her resignation (11 November 2016)

Hillary only thanks women and girls in her concession speech. Then she wonders why so many men don’t vote for her. Feminists & SJWs seem unable to learn anything (10 November 2016) Reddit discussion thread and linked article.

‘I deeply apologise to the nation’: South Korean president Park Geun-hye (4 November 2016) and then
South Korea’s ousted President ‘sorry,’ leaves mansion (12 March 2017)

Watch incompetent “Chief Human Capital CEO” Emerson from DHS incapable of answering specific questions (30 October 2016)

Female trade minister walks out of trade talks crying. Male opposition MP says we should send an adult. Outrage and sexism (29 October 2016) Reddit discussion thread and linked article

Ex-Yahoo employee sues Marisa Mayer claiming she led an illegal purge of male employees (8 October 2016)

More women on Qld boards could deliver $87 million: Deloitte report (5 October 2016) Research available here, together with details of the Queensland Government’s ‘Women on Boards’ program (Currently under review)

Want to boost your share price? Hire more women (27 September 2016) I have yet to locate and review the second Credit Suisse study mentioned in this article, so won’t comment further at this juncture.

Feminists seek funding for start-up business but fail to impress potential investors (19 September 2016) Video

Do women prefer female bosses? (18 September 2016)

UK female MP shadow foreign secretary claims “sexism” because she was asked a basic question she did not know the answer to (12 September 2016) Reddit discussion thread with linked article

Disgraced CEO’s heartless response to suicide (9 September 2016)

Women in startups the new disruptors (1 September 2016) Ill-disciplined feminist bandwagon-jumping from a journal that should know better.

CEOs say women will be promoted and men should get used to it or leave (24 August 2016)

What your shopping habits say about you (4 August 2016) Australia. Women spend more and worry less so that makes them “better financial managers“. Say what? OK so this is about household rather than corporate spending, but it nevertheless promotes a sexist gendered view in relation to potential business acumen. Research summary can be found here

Is There A Double Standard When Female CEOs In Tech Stumble? (3 August 2016) Related Reddit discussion thread here.

Saatchi boss Kevin Roberts disciplined over gender comments (31 July 2016) UK. Thou shalt not question the feminist narrative. See related Reddit discussion thread here and related video here. Kevin subsequently resigned his post.

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes goes from $5.9 billion to nothing (17 July 2016)

Yahoo’s False Prophet: How Marissa Mayer Failed to Turn the Company Around (24 May 2016) with related Reddit discussion thread here. Subsequent article on this issue here (19 July 2016) Marissa responds to criticism by lamenting “gender charged reporting“. Like if she was a he, then criticism would evaporate? As if.

“When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer bought Tumblr for a cool $US1 billion in 2013, she pledged ‘not to screw it up.’ (Three) years later, it’s become apparent that Yahoo has failed on that promise.”

The Intense Scrutiny on Marissa Mayer Shows Women Leaders Get Way More Flak Than Men (3 May 2016) But we’re not allowed to criticize female leaders when they fail to live up to expectations because that’s misogyny

Gender Diversity Doesn’t Boost Corporate Profits (6 April 2016)

When Passionate Advocates Meet Research on Diversity, Does the Honest Broker Stand a Chance? (9 March 2016)

What happens when you invest in companies with women at the top (8 March 2016) Australia

ASX 500 companies that employ more women make more profit, study shows (8 March 2016) “Top publicly listed companies that employ more women on their boards make more money, a new study shows, boosting the case for regulations that require big business to set policies to increase gender diversity.”

The relevant study can be found here. Firstly, the study doesn’t find that more women=more profit. The study finds that companies with one or more women on their board generally perform better than companies with no women on their board. Secondly, such a finding in no way supports a case for mandatory quotas, as this could (amongst other things) result in women being appointed with lesser skills than is the case at present.

More women on boards means more money for companies: study (8 March 2016) Australia

Cherie Blair’s healthcare business shuts to leave investors with huge losses (5 March 2016)

Why Women-Led Businesses Outperform Their Peers (18 February 2016) USA. Many studies cited but none provide compelling evidence that the actions of female CEO result in improved business performance. See also readers comments.

More females on boards means more profits for S&P/ASX 200 companies (17 February 2016) Australia

Marissa Mayer’s kingdom is crumbling around her (4 January 2016)

Meet Your Saviours & Protectors (4 November 2015) Video concerning the recent unelected appointment of women to positions of power in European countries and the EU

Meet The She-E-Os: Why Do So Many Female Tech CEOs Turn Out to Be Disappointments or Frauds? (27 October 2015)

Google boss: ‘Volkswagen scandal wouldn’t have happened if more women were in charge’ (8 October 2015) with related reddit mensrights discussion thread here

Elizabeth Broderick reveals why Australia must consider quotas to get more women in senior roles (5 September 2015)

Sex in the boardroom (6 June 2015)

Women at the top is better for business and the environment (28 April 2015)

The ‘All blokes’ versus the ‘Gender Diverse’. Guess which boards perform better? (23 April 2015) Australia

Companies with more female executives make more money (23 April 2015) ABC’s The Drum (video)

Yes, we need more women on government boards. Here’s why (31 March 2015) Some good readers comments

Daniel Andrews, board quotas and the myth of ‘insufficient women’ (31 March 2015)

Gender diversity improving at banks, but very slowly (12 March 2015) Australia

Cameron’s naive crusade for boardroom gender diversity will only hurt Britain (9 March 2015)

A Better World, Run by Women (6 March 2015)

6 reasons your business needs female leadership (19 January 2015)

Risky business: why we shouldn’t stereotype female board directors (3 December 2014)

Diversity fatigue: why business still struggles to close the gender gap (25 November 2014) Includes links to further research on the subject which I will review in due course

Gail Kelly’s Margaret Thatcher-style executive team (25 November 2014) The bank with the least number of women directly reporting to the chief executive is the only bank with a woman at the top

The Changing of the Boards: The Impact on Firm Valuation of Mandated Female Board Representation (16 June 2012)

“In 2003, a new law required that 40 percent of Norwegian firms’ directors be women – at the time only nine percent of directors were women. We use the pre-quota cross-sectional variation in female board representation to instrument for exogenous changes to corporate boards following the quota. We find that the constraint imposed by the quota caused a significant drop in the stock price at the announcement of the law and a large decline in Tobin’s Q over the following years, consistent with the idea that firms choose boards to maximize value. The quota led to younger and less experienced boards, increases in leverage and acquisitions, and deterioration in operating performance, consistent with less capable boards.”

Experts: In most cases, accused embezzlers are women (5 March 2012)

Elsewhere in this blog you might be interested in:

Less than 50/50 representation does not automatically imply ‘gender bias’

On affirmative action and the imposition of gender quotas

Harassment and discrimination in the workplace: Surprise, surprise, it goes both ways

2 thoughts on “Organisations with women at the helm perform better (so they say)”

  1. Hello! I’ve been reading a few posts on your blog and am enjoying it already 🙂 I’ve been searching everywhere, in vain of research that disproves this myth (at least I believe it’s a myth now) that we need more women in leadership and in boardrooms/political positions etc. I’m a woman myself and absolutely sick of hearing this being repeated ad nauseum in corporates. I’m also a researcher by day and am really annoyed having to read ‘research’ and attend events especially geared to this invisible male-female divide on the workplace. I’m not saying it doesn’t entirely exist, but why do we always have to make EVERYTHING be about gender? Like i said somewhere else before, what I look for in a leader/manager of a company or country, I’m looking for competence and capabilities. I could care less whether the person is a male or female, a dog or a cat. Now companies are coming up with quotas across their boards and management teams to include more women, whatever for?! And I recall that recent hoo-ha over Twitter’s all-male board representation. smh.

    I just recently attended a ‘women and men’ in leadership event and sat through it feeling really uncomfortable. I had the most beef with two issues being raised: 1) That men and women should have different development paths in corporates 2) That women should have female mentors/leaders instead of male ones.

    My beef with number 1) is that to make that suggestion would be to assume that I as a woman want similar/exact things to the other women in my company, just because we are women. And that the same applies to men as well. I find this to be ignorant and insulting. I have about 5 women in my team at work and besides sharing the same gender, we couldn’t be anymore different!! We all have different needs and development at work should take into account personal needs and desires instead of lumping us all into one category. In my research, there are far more important things – like age, career and family aspirations, generation you are born in – to factor into development programmes than making it all about gender.

    My problem with number 2) is that – and i have no solid research to back it up as of now – I personally do not believe that as a female, having a female leader or mentor is going to make life better for you. In my personal experience, women leaders are some of the cattiest, emotionally unstable, over-aggressive individuals I’ve ever met, who are not interested in developing junior females; and the last thing I would want is for someone like that to be mentoring me just cause we are of the same GENDER. My male bosses on the other hand have been some of the most competent individuals – both task and personal-wise – I’ve ever met and those are the sorts of qualities I would want in a mentor. Who says men can’t be caring or nurturing?

    I’m actually extremely disappointed to see these feminist ideals causing damage both in society and in corporates.

    1. Welcome aboard, glad you have found the material here to be of value, and thanks for your observations … hope you’ll contribute further thoughts in due course. It’s a shame that ppl are willing to believe something to be true (and to attack others who don’t share the vision) just because they want it to be so. Intuitively one would think that diversity in boards and/or companies would generally be a good thing, but I have yet to see concrete proof of that. Given that alone, imposing gender quotas is definitely over-stepping the mark. With regard to your comment about women sometimes being catty at work, I have included some material concerning that issue in my post about harassment in the workplace.

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