In a recent talk about women in leading positions Ekin Deligöz, the German undersecretary of the Ministry for Families, Elderly, Women and Youth stated that mixed teams work more resiliently, faster, and more sustainable in times of crisis. This statement proved to be mostly true.
“Diversity is not only a self-purpose: mixed teams work more resiliently in times of crisis, and are quicker to come to better solutions that end up being more sustainable.” This was said by Ekin Deligöz in a talk organized by the German organization “Frauen !n Führung (F!F)” on February 24, 2022. The quote was cited in a tweet of one of the other participants of the talk, the AllBright foundation.
To verify Deligöz’s claim, it is necessary to examine studies of how mixed teams work, especially during times of crisis.
Lack of women in leading positions is still a problem
Women are still underrepresented in management and leadership positions of companies, as well as in politics. In addition to that diversity in ethnicity, religion, etc. is also not being implemented enough by both companies and political parties. To fight that problem, many countries have introduced a women’s quota as an instrument to guarantee women being represented in both politics and business life, for example Germany in 2015.
A recently updated research of Harvard Business Review shows that in most leadership capabilities, women are rated slightly better than men by their colleagues and superiors. Especially significant for our analysis are resilience (how capable one is under pressure), collaboration and teamwork, driving for results, leadership speed, solving problems and analysing issues, because these factors are key elements when it comes to times of crisis. In all these categories, women were rated better than men (shown in graph below). This supports the comment of Ekin Deligöz, in terms of working more resilient and coming to solutions faster.
To analyse whether diverse teams bring more sustainable solutions and ideas, one could look at the correlation between the performance of a company and their diversity in staff, especially in leading positions. McKinsey & Company is a global business consultancy. As such, they have the means to examine the performance of firms worldwide. In a report, they researched the effect of ethnic and gender diversity on firm performance. Based on their data and experiences, they predicted the increase of the companies EBIT (amount of income before interest and taxes) when increasing gender or ethnic diversity by 10% in executive teams and boards. These results can be seen in the graph below. However, the results only show a correlation of the two. Ethnic and gender diversity aren’t proven to be the reason of better firm performance. But whenever companies are more diverse, they tend to do better as well. While firm performance cannot be entirely equaled to longer lasting solutions, one could assume that this could at least be an indication for it.
Companies that promote gender diversity in top management also act more socially, environmentally and sustainably. In addition, they achieved above-average scores in corporate management. That was proven by a study by the Boston Consulting Group of 2021, in which they showed that companies, which performed well on the BCG Gender Diversity Index, often have a really high ESG-Score (Environment, Social and Governance Score).
Diversity in times of crisis
Nowadays, strong leadership is essential to manage a crisis and even prevent it in the first place. That was noticeable during the covid pandemic: a Study by Supriya Garikipati and Uma Kambhampati shows that in 2020 women-led-countries managed the first quarter of the covid pandemic better than male-led-ones. According to the study, women leaders did impose a mass quarantine earlier than the male ones, which saved a lot of lives. This shows that the female politicians were more willing to risk their economy rather than human lives.
In conclusion, the statement by the German politician could not be proved to be entirely true. Because most of the studies only analyse either one part of diversity (e.g. gender/ethnicity) or one aspect of its effects on companies (e.g. innovation, firm performance, etc.) it is hard to pinpoint whether diversity really is the cause for the analysed effect. Also, there was very little research to be found on the effects of diverse teams in times of crisis. However, the results that were found are sufficient, for us, to rate the claim as mostly true.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE: Isabela Dias da Motta and Lina Quotschalla, Hochschule der Medien, Stuttgart (Germany)
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