Words

How people speak about phenomena reflects how they view the world, how they think realities are shaped, and how (power)relations influence what happens.  Take a word like “respect”, or “no”?

To prevent problems like Cologne, in Belgium asylum seekers are taught “Belgian values” about sexuality and respect for women. Today we learned a judge ruled that a Belgian man who admits he raped a woman, penetrating her even though she had repeatedly said “no”, was guilty but not to punished because the “circumstances had made him lose control”. So much for “respect” and a clear interpretation of the word “no”.

Maybe words are not really my thing. I am doing some background reading on language and discourse (not my field considering my training as an economist) and I am reading this – not entirely new – publications on buzz- and fuzzwords in development edited by Andrea Cornwell and Deborah Eade. It includes a chapter in which a word count analysis is done of six British development policy documents between 1960 and 2006: the outcomes are fascinating: the word ‘gender’ first appears in the 1997 document sparking a rise in the frequency of use of the word ‘women’. In 2006 gender is hardly used but ‘women’ remain relevant, more than for example ‘rural’. The concept of ‘rights’ has a strong presence in 1997 document but is less prominent in years after. In the same chapter the authors (Naomi Alfini and Robert Chambers) reflect on keywords of the 2005 OECD Paris Declaration and identify words that are notably absent from that declaration. An eye opener as it clarifies that declaration (and aid effectiveness) is not about people, relationships, or agreements, but about performance, results and capacity to manage.  Am I surprised….

Anyway, I also learned this week that while changes in language may reflect a (shifting) paradigm, different language can also help you better communicate ideas without fundamentally changing the paradigm.

Gender, women’s rights and feminism are all words that people tend to have strong feelings about. When used to describe something, many men and women will respond that whatever is described has nothing to do with them. The words may even trigger negative reactions. So can you communicate about the ideas and experiences that generated the language of gender and gender relations, without using the words? Yes you can.

A Ugandan NGO CEDOVIP works on the prevention of violence against women, particularly partner violence found that their audiences did not respond to the language of “gender relations” and “women’s rights”. Raising Voices and CEDOVIP developed an approach based on the concept of power: fostering and drawing on the “power within” communities and activists, the program triggers critical reflection about what it means to have “power over” women and it supports the development of connections and collaboration, unleashing the “power with” to actually change behaviors and foster the “power to” make change.

The program is called SASA! An independent evaluation study found significant positive differences between communities in which SASA!  was implemented and similar communities were it had not (yet) been implemented: for example in the communities they had worked in over 75% of the men and women said partner violence was not acceptable, against a mere 25% in the control communities. And in this case ideas influence behaviors: the levels of violence against women were 52% lower in SASA! communities compared to communities in which SASA! had not been implemented. So while the ideas underpinning the SASA! are very similar to the thinking behind ‘gender relations’ and ‘women’s rights’, CEDOVI shows that changing the language can make good sense from a perspective of effective communication.

 

 

Women activist for peace – WILPF Centennial

“We women, in International Congress assembled, protest against the madness and the horror of war, involving as it does a reckless sacrifice of human life and the destruction of so much that humanity has laboured through centuries to build up.” That is how the declaration of the first conference of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1915 in The Hague.

The painful part is that their statement is still so relevant. But the resolutions are also inspiringly relevant and up to date. What to think of:  “This  International  Congress  of  Women  declares  it  to  be  essential,  both  nationally  and    internationally  to  put   into  practice  the  principle  that  women  should  share  all  civil    and  political  rights  and  responsibilities  on  the  same  terms  as  men.”  Over the last 15 years the UN Security Council has reaffirmed so many times that women have to be involved in peace negotiations but with less than 4% women at the negotiation tables they remain sidelined, see also the facts and figures on women and peace and security

Our foremothers saw private profits as an important hindrance to disarmament: “The  International  Congress  of  Women,  advocating  universal  disarmament  and   realizing  that  it  can  only  be  secured  by  international  agreement,  urges,  as  a  step  to   this  end,  that  all  countries  should,  by  such  an  international  agreement,  take  over  the   manufacture  of  arms  and  munitions  of  war  and  should  control  all  international   traffic  in  the  same.    It  sees  in  the  private  profits  accruing  from  the  great  armament   factories  a  powerful  hindrance  to  the  abolition  of  war.”

While (further) nationalization of arms production does not seem a viable nor sufficient solution to achieve progress in disarmament these days, it is clear that the political economy of the production of arms continues leads to ever growing volume of deadly weapons being traded. And the developed countries of the North (including Russia) are the top producers (and exporters) as evidenced in the data from SIPRI 

Tomorrow, one hundred years after Aletta Jacobs and her sisters met in The Hague, a new conference, the WILPF Centennial Conference will start. I am truly excited (and honored) to be part of it.

Women at the top: mazes and illusions

The Norwegian law about quota for women in boards has put the focus on female leadership at the top levels.  Will these mandatory quota work or should we dismiss the whole idea of gender equality at the top as a fata morgana? Or maybe we do not really need these drastic measures?Maybe time alone will solve the problem.

Not likely.  I think the Norwegian approach may work but it is not going to be enough.

On 14 January 2011 the Flemish University Council presented its third, five–year report on Equal Opportunity and Diversity 2010 (in dutch only, sorry). Lots of good news about measures that were taken, programs that were launched, learning and change happening etc.   Emphasizing the progress made, Professor Machteld de Metsenaere, who presented the report, said action is still needed because if we do not act,  it may still take ages before gender equality would be attained.

The Belgium Institute for Equality between Women and Men observed in 2008  that of the 15 top academic officials (“rector magnificus”) in Belgium only one (1) was a women (2008:41). In Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium,  no female “rectrix” was ever elected yet.  Extrapolating the historical progress women made through the academic ranks in the past, it is said that it would take at least another century for a woman to be elected top executive of a Flemish University.

So is there is undoubtedly a problem at the top. The figures for the Flemish universities published by the Flemish University Council in this “Equal Opportunity and Diversity 2010” report suggest that women disappear on the way to the top. Comparing numbers of women in the lowest academic positions to the highest ranks (full-professor), the balance shifts from 46,5% women to just over 10% women and 90% of all full-professors being male.  So what is happening?

Actually it is not harder for women to get promoted to the top once you are at the sub-top, as compared to getting a promotion at lower levels. It is not that women move-up and then suddenly hit a glass ceiling.  Alice Eagly and Linda Carli argue that as a women it is harder to get promoted, full stop. In their interesting book “Through the Labyrinth – the truth about how women become leaders” (Boston, 2007),  Eagly and Carli show that the numbers sometimes create the illusion that the problem is at the top. In reality they suggest there is a systematic bias is consistent from the bottom to the top.

The Flemish figures on the situation at universities – and by the way,  it is not only at universities, of the top-15 Belgium NGO’s in development coöperation in 2008,  also only one (1) was headed by a women (2008:50) – any way, data on academia show that while at the entry level for academic professionals the ratio men to women is about one on one, at the next level there are 3 men for every 2 women and at top two levels there are 5 and 8 men for each single women, respectively.  This would suggest that it gets harder at each level and that the top positions – to become a full-professor –  are the hardest to get?

Eagly and Carli argue that a professional career is like a labyrinth and that women basically face a much more complicated maze than men do. It is not that as a women your career is easy at the beginning and gets more and more complicated when you move ahead, once you have advanced towards the centre of the labyrinth. The model of the glass ceiling is wrong according to Eagly and Carli. They argue that women face a more complicated career maze compared to men, right from the start.  If the maze that women have to negotiate creates more chances to make a wrong turn early on, they will get more easily lost or lose valuable time, while men may be faced with a more straight forward route or have some easily visible do-not-enter-signs that prevent them from getting inadvertently  off-track.

Gender biased career maze

In their book Eagly and Carli use an example with numbers to show that as far as discrimination is concerned there may be a constant bias ( 2007: 73).  In other words, they show that discrimination may be equally severe at all levels,  bottom and top, while at the same time that process creates the impression or illusion that the main problem of discrimination is at the highest level.  Numbers can play tricks on you (and one can trick with numbers…;).  Applying the format of their examples on the figures on the situation at the Flemish universities one could deduce that in the academic world of Flanders there is systematic discrimination with one out of each 10 men reaching a higher level, while only one out of 17 women do.

Flemish
Universities – 2010
Systematic discrimination example
at all levels 1 out of each 10 men is promoted, and 1 women  out of 17
level m/f  – ratio m/f – ratio Men Women
lowest 3,3 to 3 3:3 10.000 10.000
| 4,9 to 3 5:3 1.000 588
| 7,8 to 3 9:3 100 34,6
| 15,4 to 3 15:3 10 2,0
highest 25,3 to 3 25:3 1 0,12

At the highest level women are only one out of eight full-professors at Flemish Universities, but already in the first round of promotions there is an equally strong bias, and that bias may still exist very much today, anno 2010.  Although 5:3 does not look bad, better than 8:1,  we may not have not solved the problems at the lower, entry levels yet.

Norwegian-type quota laws will help shake things up and provide inspiring role models.  And we can be pretty sure even in hundreds of years the problem will not solve itself.  We will have to address the imbalances at all levels and support women in their efforts to manage the obstacles in the complicated labyrinth they face throughout their career.

Granny driven change …………..

At a workshop in Brussels last week I heard Alan Fowler and friends about what they call civic driven change, change for the benefit of the community that spontaneously  emerges from groups of citizens that solve their problems, change that is not driven by governments or donors.  A good description can be found in this brief leaflet on civic driven change published by Fowler and Biekart.  It is a concept under construction they warned, the thinking evolves as they say.

Somebody at the Brussels meeting noted that the concept of CDC  – the way that Fowler and Biekart describe it –  has an eighties-ring to it. Could be,  but I do not think there is any misplaced nostalgia to it.  The concept of civic driven change actually takes the idea of people helping themselves to the next level, as the example of Kwanda showed.

Having exhausted to complete boredom the aid-does-not-work-argument, some people think that politicians in European countries may find in the sheer force of this “un-aided” change a new reason to promote cuts in budgets for international coöperation.  No true.  Civic driven change should inspire aid, not replace it.

And for some more inspiration, this great video:

 

Changing lives – Cambio de Vida

ICCO, a dutch development organization collaborates with three different partner organizations in Latin America that support children who are exploited in prostitution and women who want to step-out of commercial sex work.  With resources from he Dutch government they fund the work of their partners and promote collective learning from experience.  The title of the program is Cambio de Vida – Mudando de vida because the ultimate aim is enable women and children to drastically change their lives.

Collective learning among different organizations with different approaches, using two different languages, working in three different countries: that forms quite a challenge. But there is more to it. When talking about sexuality there are other language barriers to cross not only grammatical ones. In prostitution or sex work semantics are a critical issue. Prostitution has negative connotations as an immoral act. Also there is a difference between being a prostitute, or being prostituted.  Are you being immoral, or are you an innocent victim of immoral people  – pimps, brothel owners or traffickers (all M/F)?

Compared to prostitution, the label “sex work” describes the activity in a seemingly neutral way as an economic activity in which sexual services are provided in exchange for money.  The term emerged among sex workers who wanted to combat the stigma of immorality, who wanted to rid themselves of stigma of being guilty and claim their rights as workers not as victims.

Another option is to talk about minors or women whose sexual and human rights (as migrants) are being violated.  In this terminology children and women are also victims but they do not need to be saved from immorality but they suffer injustice and need support to claim their rights.  No one is guilty in the moral sense, adults can be voluntary sex workers whose human rights are being violated. For example,  when sex work is legal (like it is for adults in f.e. Bolivia) sex workers may suffer discrimination and violent harassment by the police.

So in choosing your words you are choosing positions.  But not all positions are being disputed. With all this debate on semantics, everyone involved agrees that minors should never abused to provide sexual services in exchange of anything.  Article 34 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is quite clear on this.

Article 34

States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States Parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent:

(a) The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity;

(b) The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices;

(c) The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.

Language differences – in terms of grammar or politics – do not have to preclude collaboration of collective learning. In Bolivia the ICCO partner organization, the Hermanas Adoratrices work with “children and women that are prostituted”. But they collaborate in fighting trafficking and exploitation of children with the Bolivian  “Organización Nacional de Activistas para la Emancipación de la Mujer (ONAEM”) who also advocates for sex work to be included in the nations Labour Code.

Besides the attention for children, in the ICCO program Cambio de Vida there is a focus on women choosing voluntarily to change their lives.  The team of the Hermanas Adoratrices will share their experience with portuguese speaking activists of Sodireitos based in Belem, Brazil who fight to defend human rights,  in particular sexual rights and the rights of migrants and women that are involved in sex work in Surinam.

So an awareness of the politics of language and respect and acknowledgement of the differences is important for learning. And you also need some tools.  ICCO is a global organization and actively uses social media to promote learning. In this program we are using a limited access wiki-space to share and comment on the reports and papers and documents we produce and we use delicious to tag and share resources we find on the net. With these tools and a sensitivity for language we aim to share and learn. But, as Mileny Matos, project coördinator for Sodireitos one of the participating organizations puts it in portugese, it also needs a sense of community.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3992609&dest=-1]

Indicators of Political Leadership: 1325 contd.

The Socialists+Democrats in the European Parliament organized an event 14-15 April on women in the peace process. On the panel of 14 April,  Kristalina Georgieva, the Commissioner for Humanitarian Assistance spoke as well as Kyung-wha Kang, UN Deputy Human Rights commissioner and  Veronique Arnault, Director of Multilateral Relations and Human Rights in DG RELEX.  They talked about assessments currently undertaken, indicators of progress – which all agreed was there, but but not enough – and the need for leadership and coherent approaches.

After them Denis Mukwege from Congo DRC and  Chekeba Hachimi from Afghanistan spoke. They stressed they felt there was a disconcerting gap between their realities and the  interventions they had just heard.   All the talk about indicators, assessments, leadership seems surreal while rape continues to be used as a “weapon of mass destruction” in Congo, as Mukwege convincingly illustrated. It destroys women, families and entire communities.  According to Mukwege, the EU had not shown a strong enough political will to seriously influence the main actors to end conflict and impunity in Congo. Worse, under the “peace” agreement mass-rapist were recruited into the army, as he could confirm.  Chekeba Hachimi concluded in a similar way that the EU was about to release funds and endorses a reconciliation process in Afghanistan in which women will have no voice whatsoever.  She claimed that the international presence in Afghanistan over the last 9 years has had no significant positive influence on the situation of women in Afghanistan. Women continue to enjoy a legal status of semi-servitude, and mass illiteracy among women and girls and the total lack of voice of women means change will be slow.  A law limiting women’s rights has been recently approved and nobody has even commented.  Hachemi was very concerned that the “reconciliation” between Kharzai c.s. and the Taliban would further worsen the situation of women in her country,  particularly she expected that opportunities for girls to get an education and learn about their rights as women would be further limited.

Marcus Schulz leader of the S+D group dropped by half-way the panel. He made a strong statement that the Parliament – given the changes under the Lisbon Treaty – would have a much stronger influence and could make sure that Human Rights (and women’s rights) issues are included in future treaties between the EU and others.  He stressed the importance to include practical measures and mechanisms to verify compliance and sanctions for lack of such compliance.   On the subject of women and conflict, Schulz seemed to be pleasantly surprised that resolution 1325 was translated in 100+ languages, suggesting it has a large constituency.

It is a pity Schulz did not hear the contributions of Mukwege and Hachimi.  It seems that aside of future treaties,  the EP and the member states of the European Union have more urgent things to do!  They could use the translation of 1325 into Pashtun. Besides Pashtun the website maintained by the International League of Women for Peace and Freedom on Resolution 1325,  also includes French, English, three ethnic languages spoken in DRC as well as Kinyarwanda.   The words are there, in any imaginable language. Time for those in charge to act.

SCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security 10 years old this year

This year it will be ten years ago that the Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Will it be a happy birthday?  Two think tanks in Brussels – Security Defense Agenda and Friend of Europe – organized a brief conference today, 27 January to reflect on what has been achieved and what needs to be done in terms of realizing the challenges embodied in 1325.

Yes, when working on peace and conflict we do pay more attention to gender and women’s issues but women are far from being systematically included in peace negotiation processes  or in developing post-conflict plans and reconstruction strategies.  Yes, there are more women involved in peacekeeping missions – including as gender advisors – but they tend to occupy rather low positions in the military hierarchies.  And, yes, there has been a lot of attention for gender based violence but it seems that rape and violence against women continues to be a war tactic that goes unpunished. Elisabeth Rehn reported some slow progress is being made to get gender based violence on the agenda of peace mediators but also heard no women were present at recent meetings on the conflicts in South Sudan.

María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, Vice-President of the Spanish Governement and member of the panel noted that to date only 20 countries actually developed some sort of plan of action to carry out resolution 1325.  She explained that the Spanish Presidency will promote further exchange of experience,  action planning for implementation and evaluation of what was achieved in terms of implementing 1325.

It is certainly good news that Spain as EU President has taken up this issue of Women, Peace and Security. If only because the European Union has quite some work ahead.   Among the European Union Special Envoys for conflict countries there are currently no women.  And none of the 27 member countries has a female Ministers of Foreign Affairs.  That makes Catherine Ashton a perfect example of what Rosabeth Moss Kanter called a token of diversity[1].  Do not blame her if nothing happens. To actually change things, we will need a broad alliance of men and women who are in a position of power.

Anders Foch Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO member of the panel at today’s meeting could be a member of that alliance. He stated he does not think quota to make sure more women join the military are feasible nor desirable. On the other hand he said he was ready to work with NATO members on what they call capability targets for implementing 1325.  Among NATO members the lowest participation ratio of women in the armed forces is 3%, at the other end, 18% is the highest .

Linda Johansson, Captain in the Swedish Army, has been gender advisor in Mazar El Sharif,  Afghanistan.  In her contribution to the conference she perfectly illustrated – once again – that diversity can really make operations more effective. According to standing procedures, security patrols have to engage in conversations with women. Johansson could not find any records of such conversations when she started work in Mazar. She was told that in Mazar the soldiers on patrol actually never met women.  Mapping the patrols on the city map it became rapidly clear why. They only patrolled the main roads. In Mazar, women tend not to be around those main roads.  When they shifted their patrols and included minor streets things immediately changed. Conversations with women generated for example information about an upcoming mass wedding that could be expected to generate important logistical and security issues.  Being male-biased, regular channels of intelligence had not captured that information. This confirms that diverse groups perform better: diversity does trump ability?

Another representative of the Swedish Armed Forces present at the conference stressed the importance of examples set by the leadership, for example by participating in training and coaching on gender matters. I did not get his name, but what he said was interesting, if only for the wording: “Someone has to be tough enough to acknowledge these soft issues are in reality tough issues”

But there is more to peace and security than the military. Madeline Allbright, also a member of today’s panel,  stressed the important role of NGO’s and civil society organizations. And indeed NGO’s monitor for example what governments and international institutions are doing like ISIS- Europe.   Also at community level all over the world women organize themselves and work on security and conflict.  No other Security Council resolution is quoted more often by civil society organizations.   The fact that when you google  “1325” you end up on the website of WILPF – Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom underlines this involvement of civil society. The WILPF network translated 1325 into hundred languages from Karen via Tajik to Wolof and Lingali, which helped making it into a tool that women use all over the world.

Myria Vassiliadou of the European Women’s Lobby emphasized at today’s meeting that the non-military elements in 1325 deserve more attention (and funding).  The Women’s Lobby recently issued a position paper with a series of recommendations to governments and international organizations but it also emphasizes that it is important to invest in women’s organizations and NGO’s and civil society organizations support them as critical actors in ensuring women’s active involvement in securing sustainable peace.

In his contribution to the conference, Moez Doraid, Deputy Director of UNIFEM explained that UNIFEM is working to develop a set of 20 indicators – out of the hundreds of indicators that are currently being used – to monitor the implementation of the resolution 1325.

To me that sounds like a solid initiative that could turn out to be critical. After  so many years of talking and (action) planning, UNIFEM’s initiative could provide us with an important means to really hold governments and international organizations accountable, giving Security Council Resolution 1325 renewed strength.  This issue of indicators and accountability may be too complicated for the Spanish EU presidency to get results on before the summer, but it is certainly something that the Belgium EU Presidency later this year could focus on. Wouldn’t it  be a lovely birthday present for “1325”: the EU adopting  a simple set of indicators on the mainstreaming of women in issues of peace and security, against which it can set targets and wants to be held accountable?


[1] Kanter, Rosabeth M. Men and Women of the Corporation. New York, 1977.

The power of Diversity

Returning to free-lance work after a year-long (interim) assignment, I also took some time for reading.  More particularly I have read ‘The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies’, 2007 by Scott Page.

In the prologue Page claims his book will offer a logic of diversity and show that diversity improves performance and, under certain conditions, trumps ability.  It takes the first part of the book to, quite convincingly, argue and illustrate that cognitive differences improve the group’s capacity to solve problems.  Cognitive differences are the basis for different predictive models. Page shows that, what he calls “a diverse crowd of models” always outperforms a single expert, even if the individual models that are part of the crowd are not as good as the experts’ model.  For this claim to hold, it is required that the crowd members have at least some relevant abilities to contribute towards solving the problem, and that the problem the group deals with, is rather complex. Interestingly, these conditions are relevant to most management teams, hiring committees, juries and boards of directors.

Page’s claim is based on a link between cognitive differences and different predictive models. Predictive models can be complex or very simple (“red cars go fast” is the outcome of a – not so accurate – predictive model that links a car’s color to its speed).  Critics of his book say Page does not adequately treats the issue of communication within his “diverse crowd of models”.  Indeed, he does note that different (cognitive) perspectives on the same reality can lead to quite some miscommunication, but most of the time he seems to abstract from such problems.

While diverse predictive models are beneficial for the accuracy of predictions and create “wise crowds”, a major complication arises when these crowds are to actually decide on problems. This is because of their diverse personal preferences. These preferences are dealt with in the third part of the book. Page argues that members of a group tend to make different choices because they pursue different goals (different fundamental preferences) or they think – on the basis of their individual predictive models – that certain goals are best achieved in specific, different ways (different instrumental preferences). Too much diversity of preferences may lead to circular outcomes of decision-making processes, misrepresentation or strategic voting and agenda manipulation.  Agenda manipulation is more of a risk when groups have diverse fundamental preferences because there are fewer incentives to be open about the agendas.

So much for diversity you would say. Nice for predicting outcomes, bad for decision-making.  But that would be too quick a conclusion.  Diverse preferences create problems but also have benefits. The fact that diverse fundamental preferences are linked to diverse perspectives, a major ingredient of cognitive diversity, mitigates their negative influence.  Diverse perspectives are very beneficial to problem solving and innovative capacities of groups and make the group into a “wise crowd”.  Members of the group can use the same problem solving technique (f.e. rank cases based on a hypothesis about a proxy for a single variable and test cases for their variable of choice until they are convinced they have a solid top 5). At the same time their preferences determine their perspective, the variable they use to rank those cases. This will lead to each having a different top-5 pick.    A benefit of their diverse perspectives is that the group will not likely stick to a sub-optimal solution: what is good for one is not good enough for another group member and they will continue to improve on solutions (provided they communicate well…..)

So what is there to be learned from all this? To sum up Pages conclusions:

  • Cognitively diverse societies, cities and teams perform better than homogeneous ones – diversity produces benefits
  • Particularly fundamental preference diversity creates problems – people do not get along and public goods tend to be underprovided

A – likely – combination of cognitive diversity and fundamental preference diversity in a group helps to produce better outcomes, but it also produce more conflict.

So theoretically diversity has benefits and downsides. Do these actually add-up in real life?  What is the net result? What does the evidence tell?

To look at the empirical “evidence” you need to be able to link the diversity we can see with real cognitive diversity. When we talk about diversity we normally mean “identity diversity”. People differ in terms of age, cultural and ethnic background, race, gender.  Cognitive diversity is related to, but certainly not equal to identity diversity.  Identities influence experience and opportunities, which in turn influence cognitive toolboxes, but assuming any linear relation would overly simplify the connections. And, the connections depend on the problem.

Reviewing a vast collection of empirical studies about identity diversity, Page claims they support that, when diverse identities are connected to cognitive differences that are relevant to the problem, diversity tends to have net benefits.   His review of the empirical evidence ranges from studies related to firms and organizations, to studies of societies that look at linkages between ethnic and linguistic diversity of countries and their economic growth and history. For example, one study referred shows that within the same company, branch offices with more gender diversity generated more revenues etc.  Page refers to a considerable variety of studies. Most of his evidence fits his model, not such a surprise, but it is indeed impressive.  Too much to summarize here.  He also includes interesting side-tracks: he reasons that the European Union is a way to harness diversity to produce benefits. Interesting perspective indeed.

The book comes with a warning that it contains a lot of mathematics and I did struggle at times. But then again, I find it equally daunting to read about diversity’s  dialectically constitutive relationship to the discursive structure…  (see call for abstracts, Critical Management Studies Conference 2009).

I will stick to freelancing for organizations and networks.  Organizations can be supported to take some risks: there is no need to always recruit look-a-likes into their management teams, committees and boards of directors.  Teams may need support to draw on the differences and allow them to inspire creativity and better predictions. And at the same time you can unpack and discuss with them their diverse preferences, separating goals from means. Teams can prevent diverse preferences becoming a source of conflict and make them generate new perspectives on complex problems.  In his book, Page sometimes goes into details that I find hard to digest and sometimes he cuts corners where I dwindle in doubt, but I like the way he carefully un-wraps diversity, very insightful.