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Gender Balance Can Boost Business Profits

By Small Business FOXBusiness

If you want to boost your bottom line, try balancing the number of men and women in your office, new research suggests.

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While it may make some employees unhappy, increasing gender diversity in the workplace helps make businesses more productive, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy.

A more diverse set of employees gives organizations a more diverse set of skills, which can help the office function better, said Sara Ellison, an MIT economist who co-authored the study.

Despite the improved production, individual employees may prefer a less diverse setting. Ellison said more diversity could hurt an office's "social capital," a quality that takes into account cooperation, trust and enjoyment of the workplace

"The more-homogeneous offices have higher levels of social capital," Ellison said in a statement. "But the interesting twist is that ... higher levels of social capital are not important enough to cause those offices to perform better."

For the study, researchers analyzed eight years of revenue data and survey results from a professional-services firm with more than 60 offices in the United States and abroad. The data included some all-male and all-female offices, in addition to mixed-gender offices. [Which Gender Excels at Teamwork? Both...With a Catch]

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The study's authors used the data to examine the employees' ratings of office satisfaction, cooperation and morale, not just one generalized measure of workplace happiness.

Researchers discovered that shifting from an all-male or all-female office to one split evenly along gender lines could increase revenue by roughly 41 percent.

Ellison said the results could be attributed to the fact that greater social diversity implies acome from the greater spread range of experience that comes from greater social diversity. This , which could add to the collective knowledge of a group of office workers and make the unit perform more effectively.

The study's authors also found that simply the perception of diversity was sufficient to produce satisfaction among employees. However, that didn't necessarily translate to better bottom-line results.

When workers thought their firm was accepting of diversity, they were happier and more cooperative, Ellison said.

"But that didn't translate into any effect on office performance," she said. "People may like the idea of a diverse workplace more than they like actual diversity in the workplace."

Wallace Mullin, an economist at George Washington University, co-authored the study. The research was partially funded by the National Science Foundation.

Originally published on Business News Daily

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