BY DIANE RAMSEY | CEO, Iowa Women Lead Change

 

The results are in, gentlemen, and there's room for improvement in workplace environments.

 

A recent publication, "The Study on White Men Leading Through Diversity and Inclusion," funded by corporate giants PricewaterhouseCoopers, Alcoa Inc., Intel Corp. and PepsiCo Inc., is the first research of its kind to analyze and seek to improve the effectiveness of white men as they integrate diversity and inclusion into their leadership work.

 

For women and other minorities working in corporate America, we know that "diversity and inclusion" cannot mean "everyone but the white guys." This new study specifically focuses on white male leaders in order to diagnose four main organizational challenges, including leadership development, engagement return on investment, strategy success and merit versus the diversity imperative.

 

It is important to recognize that for decades, many white male leaders consciously avoided engaging in conversations about diversity and inclusion - whether for lack of an issue-wide definition, for self-preservation or due to disinterest. But this research data illustrates that avoidance of the topic is resulting in negative perceptions of white male leaders, which can be damaging both to a company and to individual careers.

 

For instance, when asked to rate the diversity and inclusion effectiveness of white male leaders in general in their company on 12 key competencies, white men responded with a 45 percent positive effectiveness rating. All others responded with a 21 percent positive effectiveness rating. This is commonly referred to as the "effectiveness gap" or "e-gap."

 

The e-gap is an invitation to white male leaders: Now may be a good time to transform your leadership.

 

CEO forums, hosted by IWLC to examine the role of men in advancing women leaders, are designed to help corporations and male leaders hone their leadership skills and ultimately bridge the e-gap through a focus on leadership talent acquisition, and development and retention through a gender lens.

 

Chuck Peters, president and CEO of Cedar Rapids-based The Gazette Co. and a forum participant, reflected on the importance of male leaders striving for inclusion.

"The dominant narrative in our society was created by men the last couple hundred years, and it has really run its course," Peters said. "You have to take the best of what you have learned these past couple hundred years and make it better for everyone. That requires nuanced thinking. We need to be purposeful about constructing a more inclusive culture. The goal for the future is attracting and retaining talent, and true talent likes collaboration across different perspectives."

 

Gender intelligence, a term coined by world-renowned expert Barbara Annis, is the ability to comprehend the distinguishing characteristics of males and females beyond that of physical and cultural, to include their attitudinal and behavioral distinctiveness. Gender intelligence sessions - which include male and female leaders - make a compelling business case for gender intelligence, discuss gender and communication, and detail the leadership practices and behaviors that accelerate inclusiveness.

 

The prospect of exploring leadership as a product of gender is a somewhat new phenomenon, especially in small to midsize corporations. The need, however, is apparent, as illustrated in recent research and in everyday interactions.

 

Details about the study's response rate and demographics can be found at www.WhiteMensLeadershipStudy.com. For more information about gender intelligence, visit www.GenderIntelligence.com.

 

Diane Ramsey is the chief executive officer of Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC). Under her stewardship, IWLC transitioned from a grassroots-driven once-a-year event to a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance women's leadership development and excellence. She can be reached at Diane.Ramsey@IWLCLeads.organd @DianeHRamsey.