Imagine for a moment that you could abandon political correctness and choose exactly who you work with.
Should you opt for diversity, picking an equal number of men and women to comprise your team, or should you instead create a single-gender office?
Well, it all depends on whether you’re aiming for a happy staff—or a productive one.
A new study, conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and George Washington University, found that people are happier working with employees of the same gender—yet, surprisingly, gender-diverse teams tend to be more productive.
The researchers looked at anonymous employee surveys administered at a Boston-based professional services company between 1995 and 2002 that measured cooperation, trust, and work enjoyment. They also analyzed the teams’ revenue over that same time period.
As it turns out, gender diversity was a huge boon to the company’s bottom line—so much so that researchers estimated that transitioning from a single-gender office to an office evenly split between men and women would translate to a whopping 41% revenue gain—a finding that’s backed up by other recent research, suggesting gender diversity is good for business.
So how is it possible that employees still reported higher satisfaction levels when working on homogeneous teams? Study co-author Sara Fisher Ellison suggests that employees may socialize more and work less when they’re matched with people who are similar to them.
But perhaps the most curious finding to come out of this research is that people actually do like the idea of gender diversity. Employees surveyed reported that gender and racial diversity was important for increasing trust and satisfaction.
Overall, the results imply that there’s a “mismatch between the kind of workplace people think they would like and the actual workplace that makes them happier,” Ellison tells The Wall Street Journal. That suggests businesses may need to ramp up their efforts to encourage workers to accept people of different backgrounds.
As such, gender diversity is still very much a work in progress—though some are pushing the envelope. Find out how these five high-powered women made it in a “man’s” field.
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