Why different is truly better when building teams

By Catherine Ladousse, Executive Director Communications, Lenovo EMEA 

Diversity in the workplace continues to be as hot a topic today as it has been for the past 30 years, however the debate no longer focuses on diversity as a CSR topic but rather as a business enabler.  Whilst diversity comes in all shapes and sizes – gender, race, religion, sexuality etc, it is gender diversity that still leads much of the debate.  This year alone we’ve seen the appointment of women to high profile leadership roles resurrect the topic in the media of women leaders – and what those stories have shown is that the debate hasn’t moved on very much at all.  2016 may yet be one of the most significant years on record for the diversity debate.  If Hilary Clinton wins the US election we will close the year with three out of the five biggest economies in the world headed up by women. (Germany – Angela Merkel, UK – Theresa May).  But it’s not just politics that is talking about gender diversity, it is business too.   

Several companies this year have taken the bold step to insist their advertising agencies meet key diversity requirements or risk losing the client’s business.  General Mills, the company known for brands such as Haagen Daz and Nature Valley, has asked agencies pitching for its US advertising business to have a 50/50 gender balance in its creative departments as well as 20% people of colour.  Why have they done that?  Because they know that diverse teams not only perform better but they better represent the customers they serve by being more like them.  In Mckinsey’s 2015 report on advancing women’s equality it cites: “There is evidence, for instance, that increasing the presence and representation of women in leadership positions within companies is correlated with improved performance. Gender equality can help companies access a wider pool of talent, improve retention, and lower the considerable costs of staff turnover. Equal participation of women is also important given the widening skill gap in areas such as STEM.”

The tech sector in particular has a huge mountain to climb around gender diversity.  We see a lack of female talent and pipeline in more ‘traditional’ IT environments and technology jobs, as well as a similar challenge in the burgeoning digital sector.  As a new and fast growing industry this is both surprising and disappointing and adds to the lack of diversity in the tech environment overall – with with less than 20% of women in this sector.  But change is not something that happens overnight.  All the major companies in the technology industry have some form of diversity campaign that will focus on inspiring more girls to study STEM subjects; attract more women into the sector or grow the women leaders of tomorrow. It’s our duty to do so. At Lenovo we’ve gone a bit further and built on our foundation as a diverse company to drive a simple call to action.

Firstly we see diversity being in our DNA.  Since the company was founded we’ve built a business around cultural diversity – bringing the best from both East and West to create a truly cultural diverse team.  In fact our top 100 leaders in the company span 20 nationalities. 

Secondly, we understand that in today’s technology industry most engineers are men, designing products for a market that is at least 50% women.  We’ve seen many companies, not only in the tech sector, be lambasted for their pink products for women and know that it’s not the answer.  Having women engineers and designers and creative thinkers is what will make the difference to how we evolve our products.  Having balanced teams that bring diversity of opinion is what will make our teams operate better day today.

Whilst we employ ~35% women globally we recognise there is still room to rebalance this to nearer 50/50 to reflect society and in particular in sales and leadership roles.  As a result we have kick-started a recruitment campaign using the ‘real women’ of Lenovo to talk about their experiences working in the technology sector.  What inspires them. What motivates them.  What the potential opportunities are.  By telling the stories of those real women we hope to inspire others to not only join the Lenovo family, but to be part of this great technology industry. 

You can find out more about our campaign by watching our video; viewing the Lenovo Women website and joining the conversation in social media #LenovoWomen #JoinLenovo #WomenAtLenovo