Lead the Change: The Competitive Advantage of Gender Diversity and Inclusion – An Interview with Kelly Cooper

Kelly Cooper

As much progress as we have made in our society toward equal rights, women continue to face systemic barriers to equity and inclusion in the workplace.  And not only is this a matter of injustice, it is bad for business. Let’s unpack this a bit…

Women and people of color are woefully underrepresented in executive positions.

Women make up over half of the workforce at entry level positions and are well represented as first line supervisors, but then the numbers significantly drop off in more senior positions until you see only 8% of CEOs are women. Although 2021 saw an increase in racial and gender diversity among CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, this is still woefully unequal.  

Research shows that bias in decision shuts women out.

In a study conducted recently by economists at Yale, the University of Minnesota and MIT, researchers reviewed performance evaluations for over 30,000 workers and found that  although women received higher performance ratings than men, they were rated lower than men in their potential for promotion, and thus less likely to advance than their male counterparts.

This is not just an issue affecting women…companies with more women and people of color in management and executive positions – financially perform those that do not. McKinsey found that the distance in financial performance between the companies that do have this kind of diversity throughout and the laggards is increasing. Which means if your organization is engaging in biased performance evaluations and women and people of color are not advancing, they’re going to peace out and go to the financially sustainable organizations where their skills and talents are recognized. 

That’s why I’m so excited to have the chance to speak with my guest today, Kelly Cooper.

Kelly has spent a good part of her career working in male dominated industries where the “good old boy” network has thrived – think forestry and mining. She has become adept at making the case that every leader needs to care about issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Kelly is the founder and CEO of the Centre for Social Intelligence and author of Lead the Change: The Competitive Advantage of Gender Diversity and Inclusion. The book’s focus is making gender equality a business imperative and helping leaders go about it effectively.

So how can we create healthy and sustainable work environments for all?  As Kelly states in Lead the Change, “we must change the paradigm on this conversation from a ‘women’s issue’ to an everybody issue.” 

When leaders see themselves as part of the solution, they can become power brokers for those who are often experiencing institutional bias. We need women and men to work together. We need white folks and cisgender folks and people without disabilities to speak up, educate themselves and others, and advocate for equity for all.

I hope you enjoy my interview with Kelly Cooper!

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