Leading from the Left

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Marble Ceiling

I have to admit, I got a little verklempt this morning when I read of Nancy Pelosi's swearing in as our nation's first female Speaker of the House. "For our daughters and our granddaughters now, the sky is the limit," Pelosi said. Amen. She said, we've been waiting for this for 200 years. Double Amen.

America will never be the same now because this "marble ceiling" has been crashed through. But, in terms of the day-to-day business of the House, will having a woman speaker make a difference?

I think, yes. I have become thoroughly convinced, through personal experience, that decision-making bodies make better decisions when the voices at the table are more diverse. In Carrboro, the Board of Aldermen made our best decisions when we were at our most diverse. Look, there is no "Gay position" on sidewalks or garbage collection or taxes. Nor is there a "black position" or a "female position" on those issues. But each of us walks a different path in life, and we bring a unique perspective to our work. Those differing perspectives and experiences inform our worldview, how we prioritize issues, and how we make decisions.

I truly believe that the more diverse Congress is, or any governing body for that matter, the better decisions they will make.

This theory of diversity has been found to be true in the business world as well. I remember reading, about a year ago, of two studies done on diversity of corporate board rooms. One study was done in the US and one in Europe. Both same to the same conclusion: generally speaking, corporate boards that are more diverse run more profitable companies. Put simply, diversity is good for the bottom line.

The lesson learned from these two studies is that diverse corporate boards make better decisions because they have a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the market place. For example, if a car company wants to sell more cars to women then they need to understand how women make decisions and what they value when they go car shopping. Women on the Board of Directors will ask questions and propose strategies that might never occur to a man, simply because they've had different life experiences.

(Note: I tried to find a link to the article I read on these studies but couldn't. I'll add it later if I locate it.)

Here's hoping that having a woman leading the House will lead to better legislation.