June 18, 2013 | Leadership

I work in an industry that’s mostly male. My company has 70% male employees. The wind industry itself is at least that percentage male and I’m often the only female in the room. For the most part, I hardly notice it any longer. I enjoy my work, I enjoy the people I work with, and gender is a non-issue. But is it?

Gender diversity brings different approaches, better results

More and more research is emerging about the role of mixed gender groups as it relates to business and group success. We now know that having a mixed gender group at the table translates to better thinking, better decision making and better financial results in business. Men and women think differently, solve problems differently and add different perspectives on issues and problems. The important thing is not the gender, but the mix.

This issue came to mind as I sat in the audience of the general sessions of the recent WINDPOWER conference in Chicago. As typical of the entire industry, most of the panelists were men. More than one panel was made up entirely of men.

I started to have fun thinking about what it would be like to have an all-women panel. How strange would that be in this crowd? Would it ever happen?

The more I thought about it, the more dismayed I became. While an all male panel is commonplace, an all-women panel would look out of place. I fear that an all-female panel would somehow be about gender in this crowd, not the issue at hand.

Of course I’m not suggesting that we create an all-female panel just to do it, but the question is: would the conversation be different? How about the audience? Would more people, different people, come in to the hall to hear the conversation if there were more women involved? Does the research translate to engagement with an audience? Do we want to hear the different thinking styles and perspectives out loud? Does that help the audience process the information better somehow? I wonder.

We’ve got a ways to go

Thanks to organizations like Women of Wind Energy and others, we’ve made some progress in this area. However, the wind industry isn’t quite there yet. We still have much work to do to attract and retain female talent. Perhaps that would be an excellent topic to take up at our next annual trade show.

Additional resources:
McKinsey Quarterly, Lessons from the leading edge of gender diversity
Business Ethics, Why You Need to Retain Women: The Business Case for Gender Diversity
Please Don’t Forget Women: An Open Letter to the Editor-in-Chief of Inc. Magazine
Women Make Better Decisions Than Men, Study Suggests
Sejal Hathi: Why Young Female Entrepreneurs Need Mentors
Gender diversity and corporate performance, Credit Suisse Research [pdf]