Why Gender Diversity Is Important
Today, the morning after the first female presidential candidate appeared on the federal ballot for president of the United States, Thomson Reuters held its fourth-annual Aspire to Lead Conference in Minneapolis. While the majority of attendees certainly wished the results of the national election would have been different, given the first female candidate was not elected, the topic became a catalyst for the over 500 women and men gathered to discuss leadership, gender diversity and men supporting women in business.
Keynote speaker Marcia Page, executive chair, Varde Partners – a leading global investment management firm – reset the climate of the room as she discussed four guiding principles: Know, Believe, Be Opportunistic, and Embrace Surprise.
Varde – the Swedish word for “value” – is the company she helped establish with two male partners 23 years ago. Together they established common values and leveraged their diverse skills and communications styles to create a very successful global business.
Page reminded conference attendees to see what is in front of them at the corner, not what’s around the corner. Be the expert of the neighborhood around you. Know the landscape. Believe in your skills and capabilities. Be opportunistic. Be willing to be surprised and learn from those surprises.
When Varde surveyed their global employees, one of the surprises she experienced was learning the response to the survey question: “How likely would you recommend our company as a place to work?” They found that men were stronger promoters of the company than women.
“It was a surprise moment,” Page said. “That required reframing. I thought our culture and core values were sufficient.” Instead this surprise created a new path for Varde and Page, and as a result, the organization is researching ways to potentially engage women at the high school, college and MBA program-level to consider careers in investing. Varde also looks at their hiring and mentoring processes to create other career paths to promotion. In the end, Page noted, the organization can take care of a more robust talent pool.
As Page discussed politics with a small “P,” the power of influence within business, and feminist men supporting women in the workplace, a common theme resonated. It’s not about perfection; it’s about aspiring to do more.