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Companies with female CEOs create more inclusive cultures

Companies with female CEOs are doing a better job creating a culture of inclusion according to a study by the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School. The study also finds greater confidence in organizations’ ability to achieve diversity and inclusion goals if the CEO is a woman.

The majority of companies surveyed (95 percent) report that an inclusive culture is critical to their organizations’ future success, and most (86 percent) say diversity is important for improving their bottom-line profits.

The importance of diversity and inclusion is encouraging some companies to change their approach, said Kip Kelly, UNC Executive Development director of public programs at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “Companies are changing the way they talk about diversity and inclusion, and it seems companies with female CEOs are leading the conversation,” said Kelly.

Over half (53 percent) of the organizations surveyed have changed their diversity and inclusion competencies or developed them for the first time in the past three years. An additional 12 percent say they plan to change them soon. In contrast, diversity and inclusion competencies have been in place longer and are less likely to have changed recently in companies with a female CEO.

“Our research suggests that female-led companies are more likely to develop diversity and inclusiveness competencies throughout the organization, including at the line leader and non-management level,” said Kelly.

In addition, survey respondents from companies with female CEOs feel less likely to experience roadblocks from lack of buy-in from the most senior levels of leadership of their organizations.

The survey found the largest differences between female- and male-led organizations in how they prioritize the following diversity and inclusion competencies:

  • Awareness of biases: 27 percent higher at female-led organizations
  • Self-awareness: 25 percent higher at female-led organizations
  • Empathy: 24 percent higher at female-led organizations
  • Broad understanding of diversity, such as generational, gender and ethnicity: 21 percent higher at female-led organizations
  • Flexibility: 17 percent higher at female-led organizations
  • Appreciation of difference: 17 percent higher at female-led organizations

UNC Kenan-Flagler partnered with Chief Learning Officer, Talent Management and Workforce magazines to conduct the 2016 Diversity Competencies for Leadership Development Survey. Read about the results here.