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The Gender 'Diversity' Debate is Pointless!

By Paul Smith | PaulSmith, Leadership, CFO |
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The Gender 'Diversity' Debate is Pointless!

When it comes to senior teams, management or a board of directors, diversity is the hot topic. Rightly so of course, but most of the focus is in the wrong direction. Gender diversity.

Please read on because my reasons for this might not be what you assume. 

Boards that have traditionally been predominantly "old white men" are now, (finally, but sometimes grudgingly), embracing female participation. Some are more embracing than others and still we have 20 boards in the ASX200 that have no women. This must end and end soon. 

But for me, a diversity debate that begins and ends with gender is limited, pointless and frankly, shouldn’t be happening. Diversity should not be about gender.

Diversity for diversity's sake is limited and pointless. 

Let me explain.

Source: CIA World Factbook

As you can see we live in a country of approximately 50% men and 50% women (apologies to the minority that do not fit into those classifications but I’m making a different point right now). Gender diversity at all levels of our society should be a given. It should be a natural effect of an equal society. It should be there at the very base level. We shouldn't be trying to generate diversity from a gender balance when it should be there already. It's the very foundation of diversity.  

Do I need to go on? You get the point right? Gender is about equality.

Instead of thinking we need more women in leadership roles to bring some diversity, we should be thinking, we need equal men and women (give or take). Full stop. No argument.

People with different experiences measured in actual events, not years. 

So where should deeper diversity come from?

  1. It comes from what I call TRIBAL DIVERSITY - people from different cultures, nationalities, races, religions or political persuasions.
  2. It comes from age or GENERATIONAL DIVERSITY - from Millennials all the way to retirees. Each has a part to play and uniqueness to contribute.
  3. It comes from EXPERIENTIAL DIVERSITY - people from different industry sectors, countries, and professions. But mostly people with different experiences measured in actual events, not years.

What is the point of diversity?

Diversity for diversity sake is limited and pointless. 

At Future Directors Institute, we believe the point is COGNITIVE DIVERSITY. That is people with different perspectives, different experiences and different ways of thinking.

If well managed diversity can, should and has led to better outcomes for not only the organisation concerned but all its stakeholders; that includes employees, customers, owners and the community.

Is it possible to have cognitive diversity from a group of "old white men"? Yes of course…but it’s unlikely.

By the way, as a side note, where should diversity not come from? A lack of integrity, commitment or aligned values to those of the organisation you serve.

Paul Smith, co-founder and CEO of Future Directors Institute, helps empower and connect the next generation of board directors. He is Chair of the Jane Goodall Institute Australia and a director of several start-ups. To learn more about the Future Directors Institute and how they are helping hundreds of next generation leaders make an impact in the boardroom, visit www.futuredirectors.com.au

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