If you really want to win, there is every reason to actively promote gender equality and build diversity in your team. 

It seems so obvious in the world of sports that a team must include different profiles with different competencies and temperaments to be really effective. In order to win. It is difficult to imagine a good football team only consisting of defenders.

There is actually no difference between that kind of team and a team formed at the workplace except for the physical separation of genders, which is necessary in the world of sports. The greater the diversity, the better results can we achieve together.

So, if you are a rational decision maker and want the best team performance, you should go for diversity. However, we are guided by our feelings more often than we are aware of. Feelings tend to make us choose people who are similar to us. It feels more awkward to be with someone who is different – both consciously and subconsciously.

Diverse teams perform better

Three comprehensive scientific studies highlight the correlation between diversity and gender equality in teams and their ability to create results.

In a study from Stanford University in 2009, researchers compared a number of teams with a high degree of diversity to homogeneous teams. They examined the performance of the various teams and their perception of own team competencies – that is, how do the team members themselves think they perform. The members of teams consisting of people with varying cultures, genders and backgrounds reported less confidence in their performance and perceived their interactions as being less effective. On the other hand, the more homogeneous teams found that they had been highly effective and done a super job.

What did the findings show? The findings were clear. The teams with a high degree of diversity beat the homogeneous teams by many lengths.

Under the heading “Is the pain worth the gain”, the researchers described the dilemma of how it felt to be part of teams with a high degree of diversity compared to being part of more homogeneous teams. The conclusion of the authors is clear: it is worth the “pain”. We are confident that we do a better and more effective job when working in homogeneous teams. However, the truth is that we perform better in diverse groups.

Vi tror, vi gør det bedre og er mere effektive, når vi er i homogene teams. Men vi skaber i virkeligheden bedre resultater i de mangfoldige teams.

Better bottom-line figures

The findings of the study were confirmed in 2013 in another larger experiment conducted by researchers from the Amsterdam School of Economics. This experiment followed 550 bachelor students in 50 business teams. Their task was to start up and run a company over a period of one year.

The researchers were allowed to manipulate the groups in order to control the gender distribution. Their most important findings were that the gender-balanced teams performed significantly better than the male-dominated ones – both in terms of sales and profit on the bottom line.

The female factor

Finally, I would like to emphasise a third interesting study from Harvard Business School in 2011. This experiment has led to the term “the female factor”. A group of researchers tested 193 teams with a wide range of tasks covering all categories of challenges to our intelligence as well as cooperation and leadership skills. First, they had tested the IQ of each participant and at the end, the researchers compared the results with the number of women in each group.

The trend was more than clear: the more women in the group, the higher the scores. Regardless of the total IQ level of the group. This means that there’s little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. But if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises. A conclusion the researchers called “the female factor”, the equation showing that having more women makes a team smarter.

“The trend was more than clear: the more women in the group, the higher the scores. Regardless of the total IQ level of the group.”

Based on the findings the researchers were asked the provocative question: are brainy people overrated? Are women the true key to success? That would perhaps be too categorical to say. However, the conclusion is clear: the winners are able to put together a team of people who will challenge views, come up with other ideas, see things from a different perspective and represent different customer segments, preferences and temperaments. And different genders. This is proved not only by the three studies mentioned above, but also by a vast amount of literature on the subject.

Be bold and go for diversity

We become more alert if newcomers to the group are not similar to ourselves. We sharpen our own views, but are also influenced by the views of others. It is the sum of many different factors that makes the difference. But it is simple and clear that diversity leads to better decisions, more innovation, more improvements and better bottom lines.

So, if you can influence the composition of your teams – either as a manager or as an employee – then go for diversity and promote gender equality. Do not let your own craving for comfort and the well-known become your enemy. Be bold. Pick and mix. Blend the teams. Build gender equality and diversity and see how it creates results.