We are all looking forward to the actual realization of a stabilized economy. Most of us would agree that as the industry comes back, the way in which business is done will be changed and that new social, environmental and business trends will significantly impact our companies’ development and growth.

Differentiation is needed to help create a competitive advantage in this evolving economy. Now and into the future, if you are looking for a way to differentiate your company or yourself, gender diversity may be something to consider.

According to a recent study, gender diversified companies are better equipped for competition, have stronger motivated employees, have a positive image to customers and the community, and are perceived as leaders. I think you would agree these qualities could help garner success.

The tile industry, or the broader category of flooring, is perceived and in fact is considered a male-dominated industry. Having built a career in the industry, I would agree on some level but I have also found that certain segments and organizations have a great respect for women in business while others are slow to integrate this change.

Recently, I read an article by recruitment specialist Anthony Hesketh of the Lancaster University Management School who co-authored, “Mismanaging Talent,” which I think explains the slow growth and integration of our industry to gender diversity.

He addresses how in hiring the brightest and best, candidates are not only judged on their past achievements and abilities but more on their preconceptions of worth. For example, if a man has traditionally held a particular position, then it’s oftentimes concluded that only a man should fill that position. As we exit from the past and look to the future, this process must be recognized and modified not only for our industry to be successful, but also for our businesses and our own personal career growth.

Although the blame is often placed on the back of men for choosing their own (maybe from an unconscious level as cited above), some of the fault must also land on women who may have their own biased outlook based on past disappointments or socialization. Men and women often look at a job description differently. Women will deselect themselves from an opportunity if they feel they do not meet the criteria perfectly, whereas men have a tendency to act even if they possess a few of the job requirements.

Whichever is the case, as the economy returns and we begin to add, promote or modify our existing personnel or review our own contributions to a company, we should make sure we have not created an unconscious bias to roles. It’s important that we neutralize this culture created by our own biased expectations. We can make sure that we evaluate, promote or search for additional personal responsibilities based on a criterion that includes expertise, functional knowledge, thinking ability, imagination, courage and our ability to include others. Does your company map current employee skills (gender neutral) against future business requirements, or are you (as an employer or an employee) limiting yourself based on a bias?

In order to excel in diversity, it’s imperative that you believe gender diversity creates a competitive advantage and should not be seen solely as a social cause. Remember, barriers lie in cultural mindsets. Make the strategic decision to be a leader and maximize this strong competitive advantage - it can be critical to your future success!