Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Women's Studies meet the Board Room

Being married to a rising “mistress of the universe,” we often discuss the abundance of men in a majority of our daily meetings. While this certainly isn’t a new observation or stop-the-presses worthy, it does bring the women’s studies courses to life when you have to actually sit in these conference rooms and grit your teeth through all of the battle of the sexes b.s.

Last weekend, Kristof’s column (linked above) focused on the idea that more women in banking might have prevented some of the group-think decision making that led to the banking collapse. Kristof brings up the point that is often used to argue for the need for more women in leadership: diversity of viewpoints. “There seems to be a strong consensus that diverse groups perform better at problem solving than homogeneous groups."

I would argue that diversity of viewpoints is not simply relegated to gender or race. While certainly the minority, there are plenty of failed females in the recent “bust bowl” on Wall Street: Erin Callan, Zoe Cruz, and Sallie Krawcheck, to name a few.

As psychiatrist Carlotta G. Miles said at a recent HBS conference, “When we hire ‘sameness,’ we get sameness of thinking.” When board rooms continue to look the same regardless of race or gender – with Ivy educated, coastal elites – the concentration of similar viewpoints is a clear recipe for disaster.

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