May 21, 2012

We Are Making Progress

We’ve long known that equal rights – women’s, civil, gay – are continuing struggles for what so many of us believe is “right.”  But a recent article in The New York Times frames equal rights as being strong for our economy.

Research presented by 4 U.S. economists makes the case that in the last 50 years, 20% of increased productivity in our country can be credited to women and blacks.  Changes that have affected both populations – and the equal talents they bring to the workplace – have tremendously increased the availability of highly skilled and enterprising professionals.  This is referred to by researchers as “improved allocation of talent.”

This swell in the “talent pool” and its effect on our economy is confirmed by a 2009 report, The Business of Empowering Women, based on a survey of 2,300 senior private sector executives conducted by McKinsey and Company.  The report asked corporate respondents, “Do you expect your company’s engagement with women to increase the company’s profits?”  

Attracting and retaining female employees is also an effective business strategy, according to McKinsey.  Their research  demonstrates that the presence of gender- and race-diverse leadership correlates with stronger financial and organizational performance.  Companies with greater leadership diversity have reported operating margins twice as high as those with little or no female leadership, and there is a strong correlation between the percentage of top managers who are female and a company’s return on assets and equity.

Although we certainly aren’t a gender- or race-neutral society yet, significant shifts have occurred over the last half-century, note the researchers.  The New York Times article notes:

In case you are behind in your viewing of “Mad Men,” the television drama set in 1960s New York, (the show) is a reminder of how truly supreme white men were in the United States half a century ago. In 1960, 96% of lawyers were white men, 94% of doctors were white men and 86% percent of managers were white men. The subsequent 50 years were a revolution.  By 2008, white men accounted for just 61% of lawyers, 63% of doctors and 57% of managers.

“We’ve come a long way, baby.”
Thank you for being part of this movement.