Gender balance is good news

08 May 2009
Gender balance is good news

As the Government unveils legislation forcing employers to address gender discrimination, Barry Cole, managing director of the Riviera International Conference Centre in Torquay and Master Innholder, says a fairer split is good for business.

I am fortunate that my management team is split 50:50 female and male. The dynamic of the whole team is enhanced by this gender balance.

A few of us recently attended a talk by an economist. When we left the event, two of my female managers expressed concern that he had alluded to his wife spending on his credit card. At first I was surprised that this had not just washed over them. On reflection, I could see the offensiveness of this comment - despite the fact that it was intended to be humorous.

Their feeling of discomfort is an example of the emotional differences that create balance in our team. As a service provider we must be sensitive to our clients and customers and that requires an understanding of how others can feel.

I recently attended a business network meeting where there were eight women and two men. The dynamics of the meeting contrasted significantly with those I attend where there is a majority of men. There was no posturing or hidden agendas; the women allowed others to speak and, most noticeably, allowed others the time to reflect and think before speaking. You don't see that in a predominantly male group.

Unusually for me, I sat silent for over an hour. Initially I felt uncomfortable. Then I realised that my discomfort was because of a lack of pace and the way in which the conversation veered off in many directions.

But later, when I looked at my notes and saw how much I had got out of the event, I understood the value that the women's approach brought to the thinking process. Men need to learn how to encourage the diversity that women can bring to business.

Perhaps this explains why research has shown that companies with women in the boardroom achieve a 10% higher return on capital than firms run entirely by men, and are 20% less likely to fail.

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