How might the tumultuous history of CA Technologies (aka CA, and Computer Associates before that) been different if its senior leadership had been comprised of a balance of women and men? Interesting question, huh?
I posed it last week to Debra Danielson, a senior vice president at CA, who has been with the company since 1988, when CA acquired Applied Data Research, where Danielson had been working as a software developer since 1983. Now head of engineering operations at CA, Danielson rode the CA storm through the toughest of times, from the era of the slash-and-burn acquisition practices of company co-founder and former CEO Charles Wang, to the accounting fraud scandal that ultimately landed Wang's successor, Sanjay Kumar, in prison.
To her immense credit, Danielson didn't dodge the question, as I suspect many of her male peers might have. Instead, she addressed it directly, candidly and with remarkable insight:
I think the way that men and women might approach both risk and confrontation might be a little bit different. And I think it might have been less inclined to get to the confrontational type of situation we ended up in during the difficult time that CA had. There might have been more willingness to admit a mistake and to manage through that situation rather than to try and manipulate and rough it out.
Danielson went on to explain why a balance in the attributes and values that men and women bring into leadership positions is so important in any organization:
We're working on a diversity initiative within CA right now, particularly focused on the technical women, though we're expanding it into all forms of diversity, because the research that we've done has all shown that an increase in diversity increases the effectiveness of organizations by bringing in those multiple different perspectives and multiple thinking processes, which leads to greater innovation and a larger set of possible solutions to any given problem. In my own experience, I think that I tend to bring a much more collaborative type of decision-making process into my management style [compared to men]. My experience is some of my male colleagues tend to be much more comfortable with a command-and-control style, vs. a collaborative style. And I think a balance of that increases the effectiveness of an organization.