Women in the Diversity Equation

Women represent 50 percent of our country’s population.

Still, 95 percent of CEOs in companies across the nation are white men. Roughly 85 percent of board members and executives are white men. So, while business and industry continue to make the case for diversity and inclusion, it is apparent, we have a long way to go, particularly in regard to women.

Diversity and Inclusion Council

The Partnership has long embraced the diversity of women in business. Our programs such as the ATHENA Awards LuncheonPower Up and our Diversity & Inclusion Council  are just a few examples of our efforts to recognize women and inform our members on issues related to women in the workforce.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is proud to have a female CEO, Dottie Gallagher-Cohen and an executive management team where women represent four out of the six leaders. “The struggle for diversity starts by making certain that at every stage in the pipeline women are well represented.  While we have great female representation at the Partnership, we are working hard to diversify our workforce to increase representation of people of color. In order to be successful, these efforts should begin with the knowledge that diverse teams make better teams and an intentionality to create diversity,” said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen.

The status quo was a big problem cited in a study on diversity highlighted by the Harvard Business Review article, If There’s Only One Woman in Your Candidate Pool, There’s Statistically No Chance She’ll Be Hired. As the title states, if there is only one diverse candidate, they are extremely unlikely to be hired – the authors suggest that this is because people have a bias in favor of preserving the status quo.  Change is difficult. Change is uncomfortable.  So, when 95% of white men are CEOs, the status quo mentality can lead executives to prefer hiring more white males for leadership roles.

The authors – Stefanie K. Johnson, David R. Hekman, and Elsa T. Chan – conducted three studies to see what happens when the status quo is changed among the finalists for a job position. In each study the candidates had the same qualifications and credentials, the only difference being either race or gender.

The results showed:

  • When there is one woman in a pool of four candidates, there is a 0% chance she will be hired
  • If there are two women, there is a 50% chance one of the woman will be hired
  • If there are three women, the likelihood of a woman being hired jumps to 67%

The authors noted that their results suggest that companies can use bias in favor of the status quo to change the status quo. In their studies, when they created a new status quo among job candidates by adding one more woman or minority candidate, the decision makers were more likely to consider hiring a woman or minority candidate.

Some food for thought as businesses in Buffalo Niagara continue to seek solutions to increase diversity and inclusion in our workforce. As always, we welcome inquiries about ways to support our initiatives dedicated to supporting local women in business like the ATHENA Awards, Power Up and The Diversity & Inclusion Council.

Laura Smith Headshot

About Laura Smith

Vice President, Economic Development