Interesting news today was about the new CEO of IBM, Arvind Krishnan. But no, what was interesting about the news was that he succeeded Virginia “Ginni” Marie Rometty, who has been the chair, president, and CEO of IBM till today. She has also been the first woman to head the company.
We are not discounting the achievements of Mary Barra of GM, Marillyn Adams Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Indira Nooyi, Safra A. Catz of Oracle, and many more brilliant and well-qualified heads of technology and business teams in Fortune 50 brands. There is not even doubt about women being successful as senior executives. The discussion now has moved to what advantages they bring to the company. And shrewd business leaders have all along known that a woman’s instinct often works better than textbook business strategies or even best people strategies.
But it is not one against the other. A diverse board of C suite undoubtedly brings a much broader and better perspective to company decisions. As the special structure has opened up to appreciate women who are tech geeks as well as astute business leaders, their strength still lies in being ‘different’. Women have proven to be ruthless negotiators, hard bargain drivers and topping it all- extremely smart technologists and innovative ideators. In fact, women have a better connection between their ‘geekiness’ and ‘business side’, making them better business leaders for technology companies. With their strikingly different from the world as well as the business view from men, they tend to be much more pragmatic in decision making. The strength lies in their innate ability to be the alpha without behaving like one. The feminine ability to break down silos, collaborate better, build coalitions, and in business parlance- ‘getting people on their side’- is what makes them such good leaders in the world’s top technology companies.
Clearly, men compete to get to the top, women collaborate to get there. Once organizations celebrate this diversity, (and most already do), they will be pushing to have more women representation on the board. California is the first US state that has made it mandatory for every public company in the state to have at least one female director by the end of 2019 or face a $100,000 fine. But smart companies were seeing the value in this decision even before this regulation came. Most successful companies are seeing the value of having a woman as a technology head- a tech expert, an instinctive business person, and an intuitive team leader- all rolled into one.
The icing on the cake for me, however, is the fact that they bring in the much-needed temperance of male ego and subdue overconfidence led business wars that often result in bad business decisions.
Acceptance of diverse viewpoints, pragmatic business discussions (and if old school)- a lesser show of progesterone in the boardroom, is what it takes for a company to grow smart in diversity.