We don't have a talent problem.
We have an intelligence problem.
We are not applying the intelligence of half of our workforce.
Frequently you hear phrases like talent shortage, war for talent, skills gap and so on. People can get very excised about this in the US as if we did not have available talent to compete and that explains our less-than-desired results.
But this isn't real.
- US Boards are overwhelmingly male, 83% v 17%
- 10% of Fortune 500 companies have no women on their Boards
- Just 20 of Fortune 500 CEOs are women (4%)
- Officers in this same sample are <20% women
- 92% of highest paid employees are men
It is an inescapable fact that women are not represented in leadership positions in the US.
Its Not Working
According to a recent study by Harvard fundamental systems have shifted and eroded our competitiveness. It isn't greedy banks alone that created the worst recession in this country since 1929.
We can't create jobs and resultant prosperity without addressing Taxation, K-12 Education, Legal Framework, Governing and Macroeconomic policy. The institutional failures in each of these systems would take volumes to note – not a simple blog.
We need all hands on deck to address and solve these problems.
This is not a women's issue
The mistake we make as HR in arguing this question is to come at it from a moral or rights viewpoint. This cannot sway people whose moral compass is different or in fact absent.
You cannot make people care about what they don't care about.
This is not a family values, kid-friendly, flextime discussion.
This is a competitive issue
We have, for myriad reasons, left women out of the equation when attempting to solve significant competitive issues.
In order to compete we have to get past this.
Women outnumber men in college receiving more bachelor's, master's degrees and, as of two years ago, more PhDs. Women start their own businesses at twice the rate of men. In the much-discussed Zenger-Folkman study of 2011 the data was clear: based on the sampling of men and women in high-performing companies women scored statistically higher in 12 of the 16 leadership competencies.
There is no debate that woman are as capable and qualified to lead organizations at all levels anymore.
This is absolutely a talent question
If your firm is lacking in skills, struggling in the marketplace, bereft of leadership and so on start first with an analysis of the team: do you have the right people in the right places?
If women are significantly under-represented at any level, the answer is No.
Warren Buffett is right: engage the whole workforce rather than half of it and you solve that equation.
We don't have a talent problem: we have an intelligence problem