The race for a corner office: Adam Horton
Diverse teams have been found to develop more innovative and creative solutions, and in addition, being on a team with people who are different to you sparks cognitive abilities in a way that being on a homogeneous team doesn’t. Diversity actually makes us better individually.
While there is much that can be done upstream to develop women for the C-Level, I believe there is only one thing that can actually change the current dynamic – that is for more women to be selected into C-suite roles. When a leadership team is all (or almost all) male, everything else that a company is doing to try to change that can ring hollow. I am lucky to work for a CEO who understands that completely, and who has spent the last few years utilising his own decision-making authority to change the make-up of our top executive team. While we still have work to do, we have been “walking the walk”, with 100% of our hires and promotions into our top leadership team over the last three years being women.
Although we all know that creating a diverse team of C-suite leaders is morally (and legally) the right thing to do, there’s one foundational reason that I believe is more important than them all; diversity creates a sense of belonging.
Regardless of someone’s personality, style, behavioural preferences, etc, every person wants to feel like they belong. That fundamental human desire shows up in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and highlights how important it is to all of us. When a person is not in a situation that is diverse and inclusive, it is close to impossible to get that need of belonging met. When people do feel that sense of belonging, they perform better, stay longer, and attract future employees.
To women striving to achieve C-level positions I would give three pieces of advice. Firstly, never be shy articulating that this is a goal you have. I find that most people actually skew too meek when it comes to talking about their long (or short) term aspirations.
Secondly, make sure you are aligned with what you are (and are not) willing to do to be in
the C-suite. There are many things that you give up in order to do it successfully, and you will want to be comfortable that your aspirations match the ongoing sacrifices needed.
Finally, be the best you. I have had the privilege of working with many incredible women leaders, and one of the things that they had in common is that they worked hard to be themselves. We can pick and choose pieces to implement from leaders we admire, but I have yet to see a leader be successful 100% trying to mimic others.