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How Equality Sparks Innovation

December 12, 2019, 10:32 AM UTC

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Good morning.

For more than 20 years, Fortune has celebrated women in business leadership, and pushed companies to elevate more. For me, the business justification always has been obvious: women make up half the talent pool, and their scarcity in the top ranks of business is a clear sign of resources misused.

But at this year’s Fortune Most Powerful Women NextGen conference, the folks from Accenture (a sponsor of the event) touted research that takes the argument further. Companies that embrace diversity also are more likely to have a culture of innovation. And in these disruptive times, what company doesn’t need a culture of innovation?

The Accenture research is part art, part science. They looked at companies that had a “culture of equality”—which included an “empowering environment” (trust, freedom, workplace flexibility, training), a diverse leadership team, and bias-free and family-friendly policies. And then they surveyed thousands of employees about whether the company encouraged an innovation mindset—allowing experimentation, encouraging information sharing, providing workers the time and autonomy to innovate, etc.

The result: a clear connection between the two. Employees of companies with the most equal culture were more likely to say “nothing stops me from innovating” at work (40%) than those from the least equal cultures (7%); and they were far more likely to say “I am not afraid to fail in the pursuit of innovation” (85%) than those in the least equal cultures (36%).

Other highlights of day two of the NextGen conference:

“It’s not surprising that more than 51% of unicorns have at least one founder as an immigrant…It’s crazy what immigrants have to go through to live their American dream, but at the same time they’re tremendously contributing to the economy.”
—Purva Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Lily AI

“We try to make sure we don’t glamorize valuation, we don’t glamorize fundraising, we don’t glamorize metrics that are not related to margins or profitability or attention—things that will matter in the long run. I actually think women tend to do it less because we question ourselves a bit more and we try to always be sure of our achievements before we claim them.”
—Zilingo CEO Ankiti Bose, on avoiding becoming a “unicorn asshole”

You can find more from the summit here. Other news below.

Alan Murray


Saudi Aramco

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman finally achieved his $2 trillion valuation for Saudi Aramco. On the oil giant's second day of trading in the kingdom, its share price rose 8%, briefly hitting the coveted figure. The crown prince wanted a $2 trillion valuation from the start, but had to settle for $1.7 trillion, largely due to international investors steering clear of the IPO. Wall Street Journal

Fed Rates

The Federal Reserve has left the fed funds rate unchanged. Chair Jerome Powell said the Fed won't move off the sidelines until a significant and persistent move in inflation appears. Jefferies chief financial economist Ward McCarthy: "The take away…is the probability they’re going to make any changes in policy for at least six months is very low, and it would take something quite significant for that to happen." CNBC

Weinstein Settlement

Harvey Weinstein, his Weinstein Company studio and his accusers have reportedly agreed in principle a $45 million settlement. Some of the cash would go to the bankrupt studio's creditors, and some would cover its board members' legal fees. The deal, if it goes through, would wrap up almost all the civil lawsuits against Weinstein and his bankrupt studio—one holdout, actor Wedil David, has accused Weinstein of raping her. Financial Times

Sandy Hook

A Connecticut judge has finally set a trial date for a lawsuit against gunmaker Remington by families of the Sandy Hook victims. In September 2021, the families will try to hold Remington accountable for selling the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle that killed 20 kids and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, seven years ago. CBS News


U.K. Election

Voting is underway in the U.K. general election, with the outcome not entirely clear from the last polls. Boris Johnson's ruling Conservatives will get the most votes, but it is possible that they win too few parliamentary seats to allow them to govern effectively. If that turns out to be the case, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn might manage to convince other, smaller parties to support a Labour government. If the Conservatives get a big-enough majority, though, Brexit will happen at the end of January. Guardian

Amazon U.K.

Two spots of bad news for Amazon on the Sceptered Isle: the British Competition and Markets Authority has formally raised concerns about the e-commerce behemoth's investment into food delivery firm Deliveroo—the CMA is worried about excessive delivery prices—and lawyer Jolyon Maugham has complained to EU authorities that the U.K. broke state-aid rules by giving Amazon free access to people's National Health Service data. Times of London

Boeing China

It's unclear when Boeing's 737 Max will be allowed back into Chinese skies, after the country's aviation regulator raised "important concerns" with the company over the changes it has made to the aircraft. Over in the U.S., the FAA has said the 737 Max won't be cleared for takeoff this year. Reuters

Green Deal

The European Commission yesterday unveiled the outlines of a "Green Deal" that would see the EU go climate-neutral by 2050. However, Eastern European countries including Poland, Hungary and Czechia are currently reliant on the coal industry, so they want to see EU cash that will help them transition away from fossil fuels, before they agree to sign off on the plan. EU leaders are gathering to discuss the issue today. BBC

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.