Good morning, Broadsheet readers! A young female CEO is raising serious cash, Katy Perry has a fashion fail, and new research reiterates what we already knew: that diversity is about more than ticking a box. Go get ’em.
• Beyond the box. There are no gimmes when it comes to creating a truly inclusive workplace—or for reaping its benefits. A new study proves it.
Three researchers, fascinated by conflicting research about gender diversity and business outcomes, sought to dig deeper into the topic. Some previous studies concluded that gender diversity is a positive force, leading to more innovative thinking. Yet others have found that gender diversity can harm business performance. What if—they thought—context, as in, region and industry, explains the difference?
Their hunch, it turns out, was exactly right.
After studying 1,069 firms across 35 countries and 24 industries, they discovered that “gender diversity relates to more productive companies, as measured by market value and revenue, only in contexts where gender diversity is viewed as ‘normatively’ accepted.” And by “normatively,” they mean a “widespread cultural belief that gender diversity is important.”
“In other words,” they write, “beliefs about gender diversity create a self-fulfilling cycle. Countries and industries that view gender diversity as important capture benefits from it. Those that don’t, don’t.”
The words of academics don’t usually make me want to stand up and cheer, but this was a rare exception.
The study proves what—for some in the business world—has long been apparent. Diversity does little to benefit an entity if its culture doesn’t wholeheartedly believe in it.
Japan, they say, is a perfect example. It has some of the best parental and home care leave policies in the world, but it still suffers from “stiffly patriarchal work cultures.” It shows that regulation isn’t enough. “[F]or diversity to work, workers have to buy into the value of diversity, not just hear some rules about it,” the researchers write.
Another key takeaway: diversity doesn’t provide the benefit of innovative thinking without “psychological safety.”
People only contribute unique ideas to a group when they feel “comfortable enough to speak up and present a contrarian view,” the study says.
Diversity is often talked about in number form: What percentage of a company’s leadership is female or of color? How many women are on its board? But this study proves that while it’s necessary for diverse employees to be present, simply ticking the box that they’re there is not enough.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Fashion fail. After social media outrage, singer and clothing designer Katy Perry pulled two styles of her brand’s shoes from online stores. Critics said the ‘Rue Face’ slip-on loafer and the ‘Ora Face’ sandal resembled blackface. Perry released a statement saying the shoes were supposed to be “a nod to modern art and surrealism.” She added: “I was saddened when it was brought to my attention that it was being compared to painful images reminiscent of blackface. Our intention was never to inflict any pain.” The outcry followed similar blowback against Gucci, which last week issued a public apology for an $890 sweater that also looked like blackface.
• Phone a friend. In their annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates focused on how providing women globally with mobile phones promotes gender equality. “Women are not only using their mobile phones to access services and opportunities,” Melinda Gates wrote. “They’re using them to change social norms and challenge the power structures that perpetuate gender inequality.”
• Scaling up. Ankiti Bose became one of the youngest female CEOs leading a $1 billion startup on Tuesday, when her fashion platform Zilingo raised $226 million at a $970 million valuation. The 27-year-old’s Singapore-based e-commerce site lets small merchants in Southeast Asia build scale.
• Go for launch. Former astronaut Mark Kelly has long accompanied his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D–Ariz.), as she’s advocated for tighter gun laws after she was shot at a public event in 2011. Now Kelly is running for office himself; he launched a campaign challenging Martha McSally for John McCain’s former Senate seat in what’s sure to be a much-watched 2020 race.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Carol Robles-Román, formerly deputy mayor for legal affairs and counsel to ex-NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been named general counsel of Hunter College.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Great expectations. Television anchor and journalist Katie Couric is writing a memoir to be titled Unexpected. The book, set for publication in 2021, will touch on the #MeToo movement (that famously ensnared her longtime Today show colleague Matt Lauer), the death of her first husband, and her battles with bulimia and lifelong insecurity.
• Inside an EEOC complaint. Karen Ward, who in September filed a sexual discrimination complaint against EY at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, talks about being fired after facing what she describes as sexual harassment and retaliatory behavior at the firm. (EY strongly denies her claims.) HuffPost calls her story an illustration of “the limits of the Me Too era. Simply firing or forcing out a sexual harasser often does little to change a company’s culture, as she learned. It’s also a reminder that, for women, privilege can’t always confer protection from sexual discrimination and harassment.”
• B: Bye. Just hours after becoming the first solo female artist to win the Grammy for best rap album, Cardi B deleted her Instagram account, saying in an expletive-laden post that she was fielding abuse from critics who said she didn’t deserve the win.
• Milking it. What’s happening in the world of Christina Tosi? The Milk Bar founder and chef just moved the bakery chain’s headquarters from a Brooklyn basement to Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood; she’s installed an almost all-female management team; she opened Milk Bar’s 16th location in Cambridge, Mass., earlier this month; and her “most ambitious project” yet—a flagship store, complete with a build-your-own-dessert station—is coming to New York’s Ace Hotel later this year.
New York Times