Women on Corporate Boards Are Better Decision Makers, More Likely to Disrupt the Old White Dude Circle Jerk

Yet another overview of corporate culture has come to the conclusion that putting women in leadership positions won't dismantle a company. In fact, shock of all shocks, having more female leaders makes companies even better equipped to rake in huge piles of money and solve internal dilemmas.

A survey of Canadian maple syrup and hockey stick companies (jokes! Canada makes other stuff, too!) published recently in the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics found that women who sit on corporate boards are more likely to challenge the status quo, speaking out against the wildebeest herd mentality and introducing new ideas. These counterculture traits usually translate into better boardroom decisions and greater financial success for companies with a strong contingent of female leadership.

The survey polled 624 board directors in Canada, discovering that women were more likely to use "co-operation, collaboration and consensus building" when handling complex situations than their male counterparts, who, according to study co-author Chris Bart, are often too busy stampeding into a river to notice that it's infested with crocodiles.

Bart explained that the way women operate as directors — challenging conventional wisdom and keeping an eye trained on innovation — is often directly related to a company's success. So, if that's true, why are women still a boardroom minority? The most recent survey is part of a broader study conducted between 2004 and 2012 that presented morally conflicting scenarios to board members and asked them to come up with solutions that didn't, say, make all the seagulls in a seaside town grow thumbs on their foreheads. Of those board members who participated in the study, 75 percent were male and a mere 25 percent were female. Moreover, according to the Canadian Press,

A recent study by TD Bank (TSX:TD) found that women only make up 11 per cent of board members at companies on the S&P/TSX Composite Index, which represents more than 240 of Canada's largest companies by market capitalization.

Nearly half (43 per cent) of the companies on the index reported no female board member and 28 per cent only had one.

Even though it's becoming glaringly apparent to observers that having more women in leadership positions makes companies more profitable, boardrooms are still boys' clubs, often populated by inert, ineffectual old dudes with lots of time to golf and little real authority. According to Bart, the disparity between men and women in the corporate boardroom comes down to a fundamental difference in their nature:

Women seem to be predisposed to be more inquisitive and to see more possible solutions. This quality makes them more effective corporate directors...

...Men are pack animals and they are very much quick to recognize the hierarchy of the alpha males in the group. They would be very unhappy with people coming in with different values or views to the board.

Er, that's fine, I guess, but half-assed evolutionary psychology isn't going to help convince boards of directors to be more inclusive, and it doesn't do any credit to the survey's real finding: diversity is an important component of group decision-making. Since women are such a small boardroom minority, pretty much everything a woman says in a boardroom full of men is going to be somehow perceived as challenging the status quo. By merely existing in a boardroom, women are challenging the status quo, the same way a man on a board full of women would add a unique perspective to the proceedings.

Deciding that one sex is intrinsically better at something like making decisions in a boardroom is the line of thinking that helped shut women out of corporate leadership positions in the first place. It's an appropriation of patriarchal logic, and it forces people to fulfill some predestined function determined by their peculiar muddle of chromosomes. The survey's findings aren't proof that one sex is better than the other at running a corporation — they merely offer more evidence to support the idea that diversity is really important, because the univocal opinion of a boardroom stuffed to the gills with old white guys only helps ensure that the company they're overseeing is making decisions from an old white guy perspective.

Female Board Directors Better At Decision Making: Study [Canadian Press via HuffPo]

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