Corporate Bro Code: The one thing that matters more than profits


Kasey Edwards

Rather than encourage women, many companies are still positively hostile towards them.

Rather than encourage women, many companies are still positively hostile towards them. Photo: Stocksy

After a decade working as a management consultant, I concluded that there's nothing we value more than profit and growth. Not environmental sustainability, ethics, not even human life. In a capitalist economy making more money trumps everything else.  

But I was wrong.

There's one force even stronger than capitalism: the Bro Code. It seems the corporate world's commitment to keeping women out of power is even stronger than the desire for profit.

I realised this when investor and Shark Tank star Kevin O'Leary announced that out of the 27 companies he invests in, only the companies run by female CEOs are profitable.


"I don't have a single company run by a man right now that's outperformed the ones run by women," O'Leary told Business Insider.

O'Leary's experience that having women in senior positions is good for business isn't some freakish anomaly. Nor does it only apply to small businesses. And it isn't some new-age nonsense about women being intuitive and connected to the infinite wholeness.

Last year, a study of publicly listed companies in India, the UK and US by accountancy firm Grant Thornton revealed that companies with female board members consistently outperform male-only boards. In fact, the financial cost of the cock-fests was estimated to be a massive US$655 billion in 2014.

And just this month, researchers from the University of Leicester revealed that, on average, female traders out-perform their male colleagues. They even went so far to suggest that an increase in female traders would reduce the occurrence of market crashes.

Let's just summarise that: more senior women would increase company profits by BILLIONS of dollars and reduce STOCKMARKET CRASHES. 

But the current representation of women on ASX 200 boards is 22.7 per cent and in 2015 we had fewer women leading ASX 200 companies than men called "Peter" and fewer women leading FTSE firms than men called "John".

It's not like this whole "women are good for business" thing is a newfangled idea which companies are only now finding out about.

It's been almost a decade since the Catalyst report was published, showing that Fortune 500 companies with female board members outperform those that don't.

Let's not forget that companies exist to make profit. In fact, publicly listed companies have a legal obligation to maximise shareholder profits. 

It's therefore staggering that so many companies haven't joined the dots on this, research-backed, time-tested, profit-making strategy.

But rather than encourage women, many companies are still positively hostile towards them.

Researchers from University of New England's business school found that male bosses in the financial industry still held 1950s attitudes about women and felt justified in paying and promoting women less than men due to women's family commitments.

As one principal in an accounting firm told the researchers, "I feel women lack the talent of multi-tasking."

That's an amazing statement. Even those nonsense men-rule-the-world-because-women-can't-read-maps books give women credit for multitasking, but some blokes can't even concede that much to their female colleagues.

It is possible that some companies see the benefits of increased female participation in senior levels but they lack the imagination and smarts to make it work. You know, they might have to tweak their payroll system or go somewhere other than a men's club for their executive retreats.

But I don't buy it.

Economics is an extremely powerful driver. The pursuit of profit has seen companies make massive changes in the way they do business in response to technology and global markets. They'll sack entire local workforces, offshore key business units, and reshape their whole organisational structure if it's going to create shareholder value.

But they can't seem to work out how to employ and promote senior women? Really?

The fact is, the corporate world still lives by the Bro Code and they would rather take a hit to their bottom line than a hit to the ego which might come from having a female boss.

Kasey Edwards is a management consultant and the best-selling author of Thirty-Something and Over It. What happens when you wake up and don't want to go to work. Ever again.