Recognising the true value of diversity
Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, announced his 19-person Cabinet on Monday, with just one female minister, Julie Bishop.
Not that Australians would notice much.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs, she will be out of the country for most of the time anyway.
In light of the announcement, Abbott has been launched-upon by an army of cynical journalists, full-frontal feminists, and the Australian Women’s Electoral Lobby, labelling him a sexist and a bigot, with claims that such a women-poor cabinet is indicative of ‘Australia going backwards’.
Some of this criticism is perhaps a little misplaced – building a cabinet is a complex process of balancing competing interests on a party and state level, made even more difficult by the fact that Australia’s new government is a coalition.
However, by failing to appoint more women – or put appropriate mechanisms in place to deepen the talent pool – Abbott and his government risk missing out on the value diversity brings – a lesson the corporate world has cottoned onto for quite some time.
The business world has long established the importance of achieving greater gender equality in the workplace, not merely for superficial reasons, but because of the empirical evidence proving that women contribute in uniquely valuable ways.
Forbes, in an article discussing the ‘immeasurable value of women in the workplace’, emphasise that in particular, women are incredibly resourceful, better at seizing opportunities, are rational risk-takers, and are capable of fostering strategic alliances.
Women also excel in working collaboratively, especially with regards to problem solving, are proficient at synthesising differing viewpoints effectively and efficiently, and, as clichéd as it sounds, are incredibly competent at multi-tasking.
In fact, several studies have pointed out a strong correlation between greater gender equality and increased firm-profitability.
According to a 2007 study conducted by consulting firm McKinsey and Company, European firms with high proportions of women in power saw stock values climb by a phenomenal 64% over 2 years.
And Fortune 500 firms that most aggressively promote women recorded, as a percentage of revenue, profits 34% higher than their industry medians.
And while gender-equality is good, greater diversity is even better.
Diversity as a whole leads to better cost-management, more effective problem solving, greater creativity, the fostering of cultural and religious sensitivity, system flexibility and better resource-acquisition.
Businesses have already started to tap this market.
Perhaps Abbott – and his pro-business coalition –should take the hint and start creating a culture that recognises the empirical value that diversity brings.
Khyaati Acharya is a Research Assistant at the New Zealand Initiative.