Monday, January 24, 2011

LAPFF Conference 2010: Diversity by Laura Liswood

Still playing catch up on my posts from last year. I did enjoy Laura Liswood, a senior American consultant with Goldman Sachs, talk on “Diversity”.

Her basic argument is that there is a compelling business case for Diversity. If you add someone with the same background to a group you get some improvement but it you add someone with a different background you get more. Transgender Ben is better than Sister Barbara. Why was Stephen Hawkins able to make so many breakthroughs in physics? This is because most physicists write down their ideas on paper. Stephen does it all in his head. He imagines problems. No linear thinking.

Member of dominant group in our society are thought to be competent until proved to be incompetent. Member of non-dominant groups are assumed to be incompetent until proved otherwise. Compare what happens to women who tell their boss they are pregnant with a man who tells his boss that he has joined TA and could be sent to Afganistan.

Why is it that only 16% of all men are over 184cm in height but 57% of the male top 500 CEO's are taller? There is no research whatsoever that proves leadership ability is due to your skeletal structure. Conformation basis. If you believe women play classical music less well. If you think she may make more mistakes, is less strong and less forceful. When you think this and watch – you notice the mistakes. In blind auditions for orchestra’s behind screens, the number of women has gone up by 20%.

Why is it if you ask 11 year girls what they would feel if they were to become a boy tomorrow they would go ugh but be positive about climbing trees, riding bike and getting dirty... but if you ask a 11 year boy about becoming a girl tomorrow - it is the worst thing ever. Why is there this change from 0-11?

There are two powerful myths in all cultures. One is the heroic journey where they seek to find a Holy grail. They may get in trouble along the way but will come back victorious. This is the plot for 99% of Hollywood movies. The second myth is the rescue or rescue me myth. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. The oldest version of the tale can be traced to 9th century China.

The most dangerous weapon you can use is words. Laura became a US reserve police officer after 9/11 (as you do). Words are verbal judo. As a Police officer late at night outside bars she can wind up situations or calm them down. In India if you give long answers to questions you tend to get higher grades. In the USA they say the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In Japan the nail that sticks out gets hit on the head. While in China the loudest duck gets shot. In the West girls are taught by their Grandma that if you can’t say anything nice - don’t say it. Men are more subtlety advantaged. They are subject to positive illusion. Tell a man that he should become a MP and he would answer, "yes, of course I should, why did it take you so long to realise"?

I asked Laura a question about her putting forward a powerful business case for diversity but surely it is essentially a moral and political point. She replied “whatever rocks your boat”.

As you can see from pictures of the conference LAPFF needs to do more about diversity but well done for putting on this keynote presentation.  I suspect that Goldman Sachs has quite a bit of work to do on this matter as well.


Damien McKee said...

I would be interested in your view on John and Rosemary Bull the Christian couple who were taken to court by a gay couple over their refusal to grant them a double bed despite the fact there was evidence that emereged during that John and Rosemary had been in trouble with heterosexual couples who were turned away as far back as 1996.In additon to that I found Brian Reade of the Daily Mirror's response patronising and condescending to say the least with his assertion that the couple were unchristian and that is why I am interested in your response as I believe you would be more level headed and non patronising unlike Brian.

John Gray said...

Thank you Damien while I am not sure that everyone would agree with your closing sentence.

I think the key issue here is that the Bull’s were running a business and if you provide services you cannot discriminate on grounds of sexuality. In exactly the same way it is (and should be) unlawful for a gay person to discriminate in a similar manner against a Christian or Muslim.

Anonymous said...

do Goldman Sachs approve of industrial action as a method to improve working class lives and working conditions?

A statement would be nice.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon

I suspect that no-one has ever asked Investment Bankers Goldman Sachs if they support industrial action.

I can however guess the likely response :)

nick venedi said...

Hello John,

Of course people have the right to hold religious beliefs but the minute they enter into the world of commerce and they start offering a 'service' they need to comply with the land which does not allow for direct discrimination. So whether a couple is gay or straight and not married a hotel owner should not have the right to refuse entry. One solution for the two hetel owners involved (not that am looking to give them a way out) is to convert the hotel and ensure that there are only single beds available. This will of course be inpractical so I would imagine that on balance they would be better off coming to terms with the 21st century?

John Gray said...

Hi Nick

I suspect that the Bull's would have rejected your single beds compromise.

Why do people pass such judgements on the private lives of others?

Damien McKee said...

What was your view on David Cameron's recent comments criticising multiculturalism that came on the same day of an EDL march in Luton and would you agree with Sadiq Khan's criticism of them?

John Gray said...

dangerous nonsense and yes