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  1. #11
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    It's an interesting debate and it sure is worthwile to address the question. I believe that it's only fair considering the bias and prejudice that exists.

    The real question is "Does gender affect performance in business when controlling for other variables such as IQ, socio-economic background, academic achievement, etc.".

    Right now, these articles do not enable to answer this question. They serve maybe as an important political and marketing aim and contribute to changing attitudes about women. But they are not up to to scientific standards and the conclusions they suggest are not logical and are far reaching considering the data that are reported.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    The real question is "Does gender affect performance in business when controlling for other variables such as IQ, socio-economic background, academic achievement, etc.".
    That's more of a gender-to-gender comparison. I think PT is headed in that direction as well. (And my title on this thread may suggest the same thing too.)

    But the scope of the studies in the first two links is much more restricted than that. The studies simply ask: Do mixed-gender boards outperform all-male boards. And I think the studies answer that question about as well as one can measure those things.

    Having learned that mixed-gender boards outperform all-male boards, one is tempted to ask why that occurs--is one gender "better" than the other, or is there a positive synergy in having both sexes present? But the studies don't address that, and it's difficult to figure out how to test for that in a real-world business environment. The material in the first link suggests some associations, like mixed-gender boards matching up better with the needs of the large numbers of females who purchase for households. But those are just suggestions.

    But in any case these materials are aimed at the business world. The business world doesn't necessarily need gender-to-gender comparisons. It just needs to know which board outperforms the other. So that's what the studies address.

    Just my opinion/best guess, of course.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by FineLine View Post
    Hmmm... Seems hard to make a direct comparison. First you have to make sure you're not comparing apples to oranges. What industry is the "female company" operating in? What's its history? Is there a "male company" parallel? And the overall corporate environment tends to be male--can we control for that, or is that something we're trying to measure: The ability of females to operate by themselves in a competitive "male" business environment?
    Well, the answer would be "as much as the links you provide" But of course, the environment is fixed for both (would mixed be as effective in a female dominated culture?)

    [Edit:] ^^^^ ....the point being that it doesn't seem fair to isolate and compare female leadership qualities if the women in question are having to compete in a competitive male business environment (the maketplace) but haven't had the benefit of learning their leadership skills in the male corporate world like the leaders of every other company in the business world (all-male and/or mixed)...
    This is what I was getting at. Consider these "facts" (for now, just the logical argument, not the actual data )

    a) There are three states - all male, all female and mixed
    b) All male performs better than all female (proportionally, almost all male is better than almost all-female)
    c) Mixed (as not included in b) performs better than all male or all female.

    Most people will conclude that the balance actually leads to a minority of females in positions for exactly the same four reasons (personal ability is less in women, therefore equilibrium would have less females, or males are the best, but gain from a small control of females... etc).

    My personal theory is a lot more... controversial... In short, as a result of our most basic genes, women tend to be a lot more "average". They have less tail ends - good and bad. However, in order to move up the ladder they need at least some tail ends (we could say IQ, but there are others)... the problem is that having tail ends in males causes some... balance issues. That means that men are less stable and over the long haul small differences begin to add up. A balanced field involves women being gatekeepers to male instability. However, it is much harder to have an equivalent female dominated board for exactly the same reasons. The optimal balance is reached right around the point where the women are able to offset the issues tail-end men have.

    One such example is risk. Women are far better at evaluating risk objectively than men are. An all male board is biased towards making bad risk decisions (and not even be aware of it) while a mixed board may not. On the other hand, females are generally more agreeable - this means that a group of females may not pick fights where they can win based upon empathy and such (which could also be seen as a biased risk measurement.)

    As such, I believe the core answer revolves around group dynamics - around small advantages to having different forms of measurement and decision making. In a world where male dominates, a few females offer a competitive advantage while female dominance offers a disadvantage. It would likely be flipped if it was a female dominanted culture (where men might exploit the empathy gap like women may be exploiting the risk-evaluation gap).

    (All examples are real here but are just for illustrating my conceptual view of it... it doesn't mean that the example is actually valid for explaining anything!)


    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    It's an interesting debate and it sure is worthwile to address the question. I believe that it's only fair considering the bias and prejudice that exists.

    The real question is "Does gender affect performance in business when controlling for other variables such as IQ, socio-economic background, academic achievement, etc.".
    I think that applies more for the individuals - the reports seem to be focused on the statement "having a mixtures of males and females make leadership decisions is better than just having all males". There is a chance that the average IQ/etc is brought up because of the women being there... but I don't think that is likely.

    The real question that isn't being asked is why the group performs better which really should be looked at... But business rarely cares about such things. They act based on conclusions - they are not in the business of looking into it (so while I agree with the science part, I think that is an advantage... science can be 'information paralysis' in business).

    I think in those terms it has to do with group dynamics (better decisions) more than individual traits (although individual traits could lead to the same effect). If so, none of the factors you list may offer any benefit to the companies looking to gain a competitive advantage.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by FineLine View Post
    Having learned that mixed-gender boards outperform all-male boards, one is tempted to ask why that occurs--is one gender "better" than the other, or is there a positive synergy in having both sexes present? But the studies don't address that, and it's difficult to figure out how to test for that in a real-world business environment. The material in the first link suggests some associations, like mixed-gender boards matching up better with the needs of the large numbers of females who purchase for households. But those are just suggestions.
    Yep... but the thing with these kind of articles is that people will be tempted to conclude that "Well, if mixed boards do better than all male boards, that means women are better!"

    But in any case these materials are aimed at the business world. The business world doesn't necessarily need gender-to-gender comparisons. It just needs to know which board outperforms the other. So that's what the studies address.
    Yes it does, to stop people from making the simplistic conclusions I just outlined which could lead them to take the wrong decisions.

    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby
    I think in those terms it has to do with group dynamics (better decisions) more than individual traits (although individual traits could lead to the same effect). If so, none of the factors you list may offer any benefit to the companies looking to gain a competitive advantage.
    Measures are done on the individual level anyway and a measure for a "group" is mostly just an aggregate of individual measures. It would be a *very* interesting thing to control if the better performance can not be explained by other factors.

    It may be that the women that have made it there have exceptionnaly high IQ's, or come from privileged background or have high academic achievements... and it is not the presence of a percent of women that explains the increased performance but the presence of an increase in the factors I have stated. Therefore, those articles are pretty useless in the conclusions they reach without proving first that the increase in performance is not due to other factors.

    That, alone, can lead to disastrous business decisions.

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    This is what I was getting at. Consider these "facts" (for now, just the logical argument, not the actual data )

    a) There are three states - all male, all female and mixed
    b) All male performs better than all female (proportionally, almost all male is better than almost all-female)
    c) Mixed (as not included in b) performs better than all male or all female.

    Most people will conclude that the balance actually leads to a minority of females in positions for exactly the same four reasons (personal ability is less in women, therefore equilibrium would have less females, or males are the best, but gain from a small control of females... etc).

    My personal theory is a lot more... controversial... In short, as a result of our most basic genes, women tend to be a lot more "average". They have less tail ends - good and bad. However, in order to move up the ladder they need at least some tail ends (we could say IQ, but there are others)... the problem is that having tail ends in males causes some... balance issues. That means that men are less stable and over the long haul small differences begin to add up. A balanced field involves women being gatekeepers to male instability. However, it is much harder to have an equivalent female dominated board for exactly the same reasons. The optimal balance is reached right around the point where the women are able to offset the issues tail-end men have.

    One such example is risk. Women are far better at evaluating risk objectively than men are. An all male board is biased towards making bad risk decisions (and not even be aware of it) while a mixed board may not. On the other hand, females are generally more agreeable - this means that a group of females may not pick fights where they can win based upon empathy and such (which could also be seen as a biased risk measurement.)

    As such, I believe the core answer revolves around group dynamics - around small advantages to having different forms of measurement and decision making. In a world where male dominates, a few females offer a competitive advantage while female dominance offers a disadvantage. It would likely be flipped if it was a female dominanted culture (where men might exploit the empathy gap like women may be exploiting the risk-evaluation gap).

    (All examples are real here but are just for illustrating my conceptual view of it... it doesn't mean that the example is actually valid for explaining anything!)
    Sure, that all sounds reasonable. I think that one can boil it down to a common-sense scenario:

    In a testosterone-fueled competitive marketplace (businesses competing against each other for profit), the board should presumably have a substantial male representation, for reasons of males having a natural "feel" for the competition of the marketplace and representing continuity and the "old school" training and indoctrination. But there should also be a female presence to infuse new blood and new thinking into the old structures, shake up the dynamic of decision-making, and represent the large audience of female purchasers. In terms of priority, presumably maneuvering through the marketplace and earning profits comes first, so males predominate.

    Your explanation of the situation is better than mine, because it shows why one would want to "shake up the dynamic of decision-making": men alone may lose balance and be unstable. Psychologists study that sort of thing and look for optimal decision-making models in business.

    But business has probably been wary for a couple reasons: 1) At what point does shaking up the decision-making process result in lost profits? and 2) What are the costs (recruitment, retention, and turnover) of dealing with women in management?

    But finally enough women are entering management that the experts can finally make some raw, real-world comparisons in the performance of all-male boards against mixed-gender boards...

    Again, just my opinion here.

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    Yep... but the thing with these kind of articles is that people will be tempted to conclude that "Well, if mixed boards do better than all male boards, that means women are better!"



    Yes it does, to stop people from making the simplistic conclusions I just outlined which could lead them to take the wrong decisions.
    Fair enough.

    By the way, all kinds of gender studies have been done. There are plenty of data available on the differences in specific abilities in the sexes. Mainly, it's just difficult to predict how those differences will play out IRL in certain arenas (like the business world), what synergies will arise, and what the cost will be.

    So companies that are willing to take a chance in order to gain an edge recruit some female managers, and studies are done on rather simplistic terms--what mix of corporate board is the most profitable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    It may be that the women that have made it there have exceptionnaly high IQ's, or come from privileged background or have high academic achievements... and it is not the presence of a percent of women that explains the increased performance but the presence of an increase in the factors I have stated.
    Seems like non-standard deviations like very high IQs would be "artifacts" that are smoothed out by taking a large cross-section. The articles I linked aren't the actual studies themselves, and I agree that it's good on principle to inquire into methodology of studies. But it appears on the surface that the studies were broad-based enough to smooth out any "blips" in the data from individual non-representative samples. Business people know enough about statistics to look for that sort of thing.

    I suspect that's why it took this long to do these studies. The experts had to wait until there was a certain "critical mass" of women in business to present a good cross-section (as opposed to studying one or two companies in isolation).

    And assuming you have a good broad-based cross-section, then there's no harm done by having lots of hi-IQ women from Ivy League schools in business (if that's how it turns out), because you probably have the same thing in the male cross-section as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    A balanced field involves women being gatekeepers to male instability.
    Just one more note. I've seen a few female execs and top managers, and not all of them are the supportive, collectively-oriented types. There are some tough old gals out there, every bit as cut-throat as the guys or more.

    So it's not necessarily about "balancing" the aggressiveness of the men in every case. Sometimes it's just about "new blood" and shaking things up. As an outsider, a woman may feel it's her right or even her obligation to play devil's advocate and speak up and say the things that the guys won't say. Sometimes her role may indeed be to point out the "softer side" of a given issue, but sometimes her message may be to point out that the guys are thinking along traditional teamwork lines and they need to get a little more aggressive and quit playing it so safe.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by FineLine View Post
    But business has probably been wary for a couple reasons: 1) At what point does shaking up the decision-making process result in lost profits? and 2) What are the costs (recruitment, retention, and turnover) of dealing with women in management?
    I don't believe those are the reasons; I believe that those are the justifications.

    I realise that women have a much higher "turnover" due to life commitments (socially conditioned + childbirth) and so that could be a real reason to avoid them in high-pressure "take work home" environments... but the rest, not so much.

    The only reason why it may exist is because there is pressure to maintain the norm. That's the main reason, I think, and warriness is really a fear of the new. Adding a new leader (especially as a board member, which is a collective shareholder agreement) should have no external cost at all.


    Quote Originally Posted by FineLine View Post
    Just one more note. I've seen a few female execs and top managers, and not all of them are the supportive, collectively-oriented types. There are some tough old gals out there, every bit as cut-throat as the guys or more.
    I agree; yet biology doesn't lie. The way they approach it (ie: risk differences, etc) may still apply. Maybe they are more reactive (and thus competitive + highly reactive exploits a niche that men have difficulties in). Maybe they multi-task better (which women do), for example... and of course we are talking about large numbers (not all mixed boards are better, and this could be one reason for that), which means that unless all female execs are like that, it may not play a role.

    And different industries probably have different power structures (ie: Law in NY vs Mining in [unknown cit]), etc.

    So it's not necessarily about "balancing" the aggressiveness of the men in every case. Sometimes it's just about "new blood" and shaking things up. As an outsider, a woman may feel it's her right or even her obligation to play devil's advocate and speak up and say the things that the guys won't say. Sometimes her role may indeed be to point out the "softer side" of a given issue, but sometimes her message may be to point out that the guys are thinking along traditional teamwork lines and they need to get a little more aggressive and quit playing it so safe.
    This may be possible, although I have my doubts over the survival of any woman who plays devil's advocate just for the sake of it... that'd be a group dynamic though and likely would have nothing to do with women themselves (I don't know of any bias that would encourage women to be like this, except outcasting themselves as "the other player" by virtue of being different in the group... but that has a really low life expectancy!). I would expect a large amount of crossover if this reason was dominant...

    However, I won't say it isn't that either. It could manifest itself in more subtle ways, to the point of men needing to justify their actions in different terms (thus influencing behaviour) just because a woman is there. Hell, it could be as simple as women being more emotional, thus requiring men to hold things back... or it could be that the "old boys club" is outright inefficient and needs to be broken.

    I can't really conclude much so I keep all the different views in mind. The one I rank the highest was what I posted above - it best fits the data I have... but the reality is that there are multiple effects playing off on each other - some will apply to certain situations.

    The only constant will be "change", which may itself be the underlying reason. In essence, the normal level of efficiency in a society is based upon their norms... as the norms relax, change sneaks in where it can, transforming the norms. All we are seeing are the small exploitive gains - a form of marketplace evolution. It might really have nothing to do with the actors at all or their individual traits... just that the real equilibrium is being reached as the artifical barriers are being removed.

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    You raised good points in your last post, and I don't have any problem with what you said, other than clarifying a point below.

    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    I don't believe those are the reasons; I believe that those are the justifications.

    I realise that women have a much higher "turnover" due to life commitments (socially conditioned + childbirth) and so that could be a real reason to avoid them in high-pressure "take work home" environments... but the rest, not so much.

    The only reason why it may exist is because there is pressure to maintain the norm. That's the main reason, I think, and warriness is really a fear of the new. Adding a new leader (especially as a board member, which is a collective shareholder agreement) should have no external cost at all.
    Well, there are still some costs associated with the change. They may only be about educating people, changing the corporate culture, and breaking down the inertia of the all-males club, but all of that is still going to cost money.

    Business likes certainty. Even if corporate heads are amenable to bringing on female managers, they still want to see a list of specific steps to be taken, relative costs of those steps, and assurances that profits will exceed the costs of training, mentoring, establishing alternate career paths, sorting out legal problems among staff like disputes and harassment charges, etc.

    Hence the material in the first link includes a section ("Reinventing the model") on specific steps to be taken by a business incorporating women into their management. I agree that businesses drag their feet out of fear; thus the material in the first link offers a concrete representation of measures to be taken so that businesses can see what's needed and figure the costs for themselves.

    I was in the military when women were introduced into the regular forces and the WACs, WAVEs, WMs, etc. were disbanded. There was a multi-year process of acclimatization, with associated costs and disruptions. If you're going to do it right, you can't just hire one or two at the very top. You have to work them into every corner of the organization and mentor them up through the ranks.

    I agree that it's all about fear and inertia. But addressing those things can be costly, and businesses need reassurances that those costs can be contained and/or recouped. In a sense, that's what these studies are all about. They reassure businesses that the change will be profitable across a large cross-section of corporate environments.

    But again, that's just a clarification. I have no problem with labeling those obstacles "fear of the new" or inertia. I just wanted to clarify that addressing fears and inertia in the corporate environment can still cost a lot of effort and money.

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