I think we all know instinctively that a gender balance in teams contributes to performance as each gender brings something different, diverse and valuable to the mix. The evidence is growing that the presence of women affects the team’s preferences decision making and outcomes. Indeed, ongoing studies have shown that mixed gender teams with a higher percentage of women have more viewpoints are more generous and have effective relationships and work processes.
Part of the Entrepreneurship Education Programme at The Department of International Business Studies in Amsterdam required the students to start a business venture. In 2013 a group of students (550) contributed to a study in which they were randomly assigned to 45 groups. In their groups they carried out all the tasks of the business including marketing and selling goods/stocks, electing officers and dividing tasks, keeping records and holding shareholder’s meetings.
The study collected administrative data and the teams’ annual reports. In addition, three surveys were undertaken with the baseline survey collecting demographic data including age, ethnicity and parental background, as well as personality questions. All three surveys included self-assessments of the students’ knowledge in business management and leadership.
The outcomes of the study showed the correlation between the gender make-up of teams and sales and profit. The key points were:
• Teams show lower sales and profits where there is a smaller percentage of women.
• As the percentage of women in a team increases so does the profit and sales, showing up to a 50% increase.
• The study showed that teams with an equal gender mix perform as well as teams with a majority of female members.
• There was no clear data about the impact of female-dominated teams.
• Business teams with an equal gender mix perform better than male-dominated teams in terms of sales and profits.
• The study found no evidence to support the underlying mechanisms that improve performance on teams with an equal gender mix.
• The study found that conflicts, decision making, friendships, atmosphere (culture), learning and mutual monitoring were all unrelated to the gender composition of the group.
But what does this mean for us as coaches? Clearly, we need to encourage our clients to:
• engage with the diversity debate by modelling this ourselves
• ensure that women have equal access to learning and development and participation in teams
• encourage transparency in recruitment processes, decision making and policy development
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