FacebookFacebook icon TwitterTwitter icon LinkedInLinkedIn icon Email


It’s time to focus on talent rather than gender

IbyIMD+ Published 18 December 2021 in Magazine

Diversity and inclusion programs are booming, but don’t always produce the required results. Here are four ways to make them work. 


Diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs have been a booming field within organizational management for the past decade, particularly in gender-related initiatives, which are a big business priority across geographies. In general, these programs focus on increasing female representation in leadership roles are driven by: 

  1. External societal pressures, the fear of reputational damage or losing clients, for example. 
  2. Social fairness and justice, perhaps a genuine desire to increase equity and drive progress in society. 
  3. The so-called business case, the belief that having more balanced leadership teams, or more women in leadership roles, will boost organizational effectiveness metrics, or lead to an inherent return on investment.

These motives are not mutually exclusive and may coexist, even though the public perception often assumes that focusing on one implies disregarding or neglecting the others.

Failing to articulate the why of your gender-diversity program is obviously problematic, not least because if you don’t know where you are going, any road may take you there. But, regardless of the underlying motive for the gender-related D&I initiatives of organizations, there appear to be four recurrent errors that explain their general lack of success, and why, despite good intentions, there are very few salient examples of companies that have really driven systematic improvements in their efforts to not just balance the gender ratio in leadership – especially at the top – but also persuade others, both externally and internally, that these changes are meaningful and consequential.

Here are four practical issues to address if more women are to be helped to reach the top, as well as reducing the persistent and uncomfortable gap between the leaders we need, and the leaders we actually get (which I have documented in my book, Why do so many incompetent men become leaders? And how to fix it).

Login and subscribe to IbyIMD+ subscription

Explore first person business intelligence from top minds curated for a global executive audience