Review: Results at the Top

21 Aug 2017 By Robert Jeffery

Almost every idea here advances the cause of gender equality at work

Barbara Annis & Richard Nesbitt, Wiley, £22.99/£21.84 e-book

We have more female leaders than ever before, and even in Saudi Arabia women now outperform men at undergraduate level. But a step back reveals an inconvenient truth; just one in 10 CEOs is female, and the drive to get women into executive positions has stalled in many parts of the world.

Results at the Top attempts to advance the debate beyond the usual solutions (quotas, pipelines or better maternity leave) and address what the authors regard as the true reasons for gender inequality.

‘Gender intelligence’ is the magic phrase here, because in Annis and Nesbitt’s view the way we have treated the topic to date has been dumb. We know diversity leads to better performance but we fail to prioritise it, or, worse, we devote HR resources to interventions that fail, such as mentoring (too often lacking in chemistry), flexible working (ineffective at solving progression problems) or networks (not inclusive enough).

Instead, they use neuroscientific insight to ask us to think again about gender – about why, for example, men are comfortable seeing gender imbalance through the prism of their own self-interest, or why millennial men find misogyny so unacceptable. Advancement, they believe, can only come through joint ownership of the problem – when men are advocates for women’s causes at work.

Getting there means creating role models and accountability among both sexes for progression and succession planning. HR can help by looking at job descriptions, being more open about bias and getting smarter on talent.

“The solution right under our noses is in bringing the best brains of both men and women together,” the authors suggest. And although the attempts at back-and-forth banter are cloying at times, almost every idea here advances that cause.

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