Jul 10 2011
In a recent interview with the Havard Business Review, Anita Woolley and Thomas Malone discuss the implications of a study which tested the interaction between groups, gender and intelligence. In key findings, it was reported that the groups with more women performed better than those with less gender diversity.
Malone discussed this key finding and went one step further, “The standard argument is that diversity is good and you should have both men and women in a group. But so far, the data shows the more women, the better.” This is significant because not only is the research suggesting that we should create teams with greater gender diversity in the workplace, it is suggesting that there is no cap on the improvement offered with a higher ratio of women, even beyond equal numbers.
While there seems to be a direct correlation between gender and collective group intelligence, it is not accurate to state that women are smarter than men. Instead, Woolley and Malone suggest the reason the experiment proved that collective intelligence rises as groups become more gender diverse is because of social sensitivity. Women have been known to work more constructively and democratically in groups than men. It is this characteristic that Woolley believes is the key to a team’s success. He states, “[Women] listen to each other. They share criticism constructively. They have open minds. They’re not autocratic.”
In short, Woolley suggests that teams require “a moderate level of cognitive diversity for effectiveness.” However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Woolley and Malone’s findings, along with other research studies, are just beginning to uncover the many factors involved in creating successful teams.
While women may be more likely to be higher in social sensitivity, emotional and personal qualities will always be on a scale spanning gender, and many men will be equally as socially sensitive as their female counterparts. Thus, although diversity should be actively encouraged, blanket decisions towards gender should be avoided. Instead, we should look to the desired optimum personal qualities for effective teams and install programs that encourage these qualities – from early education to development programs in the workplace.
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