Yet more research proves what we intuitively have known forever, gender diversity actually makes teams smarter. The research, recently published in the Harvard Business Review demonstrated that having more women on a team actually improved the teams ‘collective intelligence’ far better than having several highly intelligent individuals on the team. It is literally a case of the whole being smarter than the sum of its parts.
Anita Wooley, from Carnegie Mellon who conducted the research said about the findings: “We’ve replicated the findings twice now. Many of the factors you might think would be predictive of group performance were not. Things like group satisfaction, group cohesion, group motivation – none were correlated with collective intelligence. And, of course, individual intelligence wasn’t highly correlated, either…
So WHY exactly do more women make the whole group smarter?
Wooley continues: “Before we did the research, we were afraid that collective intelligence would be just the average of all the individual IQs in a group. So we were surprised but intrigued to find that group intelligence had relatively little to do with individual intelligence. The standard argument is that diversity is good and you should have both men and women in a group. But so far, the data show, the more women, the better, though the benefits flatten out at the extreme end – there should be diversity rather than all women. Part of that finding can be explained by differences in social sensitivity, which we found is also important to group performance.
“Many studies have shown that women tend to score higher on tests of social sensitivity than men do. So what is really important is to have people who are high in social sensitivity, whether they are men or women.What do you hear about great groups? Not that the members are all really smart but that they listen to each other. They share criticism constructively. They have open minds. They’re not autocratic. And in our study we saw pretty clearly that groups that had smart people dominating the conversation were not very intelligent groups.” If that’s not yet another great reason to have more women on boards, I don’t know what else is!