Today, She_is_in_biz, the Twitter account for She Geared based in Canada's capital, posted an article called How Women Have Changed Norway's Boardroom. If there was ever an article to convince me about these kinds of quotas, this would be it (though I'm still not sure I'm sold - see below).
Two years ago, most publicly-traded Norwegian boards themselves had to be forced by law to accept women in any sort of real numbers. ... [M]en in charge of corporations everywhere who have genuinely tried to on-board women and either 1) not found them, or 2) found them lacking will have to re-examine how well they actually tackled that task.The most interesting thing about this article is that it uses the perspectives of men on the boards to explain how women have benefit them. Here's one summary of how women help:
Women, in sufficient numbers, change board dynamics for the better. Why? Because as a group, women tend to display a different set of characteristics from men as a group — characteristics that broaden discussions, reduce unnecessary risks that a corporation takes on, and punish people who would increase foolish risks.Even if this is a generalization, there are definite benefits of this change in dynamics for any team, including technical ones. As one former CEO and current board member put it:
"If I had to generalize about the differences between men and women on boards? Women are more interested in getting the facts. Much more prepared; ask many more questions. Men tend to shoot from the hip. Women on boards are also more interested in how the organization will actually work. ... Women tend to see the organization as more of a living thing." (emphasis added)I suppose this might be what some people describe as the more 'social' nature of women. One might also surmise that the extra preparation women take could be related to the higher prevalence of the impostor syndrome. Either way, the result is that problems get tackled from new angles, and perspectives shift. On a software team, this could mean anything from finding better ways, to organize requirements to improving relations between team members, to bringing the end users closer to the product. Perhaps all things that might be accomplished by an all-male team, but more likely with more diversity.
Here's an interesting one:
Women are less about jockeying for position in the group, and more about understanding and solving the problem with as much information as feasible: "In my observation, women don't drive for prestige as much as men do," said one experienced male board chair.Perhaps this means fewer women will be cowboy coders, trying to save the day in a blaze of glory, and more will be the types who believe that slow and steady produces higher quality results? Having a good balance between the two types seems to be the best idea for success.
One section of the article discusses the fact that women need support in order to enter their board positions successfully. Sound familiar? What was also pointed out, though, is that many men need a little help getting comfortable with the addition of women. Perhaps we need to pay attention to this fact when joining all-male technical teams. Many of the men want to make the women feel welcome, but don't want to misinterpreted. We should help put them at ease!
There's even more in the article, so be sure to check it out.
Now, in terms of whether I'm convinced about quotas...
It certainly does seem to have helped in this case. But I'm still not comfortable with the idea that X number of women must be hired by such-and-such date. I'd rather see a policy that states a goal rather than a rule.
Because there have been studies suggesting that the name at the top of a resume can inadvertently influence hiring decisions (by both men AND women), it might be a good idea to implement blind resume reviews and perhaps careful training for recognizing talent and ability during interviews. Then, in the end, if it comes down to a set of completely equal candidates, then choose the female to improve diversity.
I hope this topic will stir up some strong opinions - please leave a comment and let's get a discussion going!