FacetsLogoMotivational speakers, I think, can get away with following the advice of my speaking coach. She told me to polish one message – and use it over and over. That advice may work for inspirational speakers, but not so much for people like me who design workshops for different audiences. I have one core message. But I address it from multiple angles. In the last two weeks I’ve given three totally different programs, and I have two more, also totally different, coming up.

My “basic” program is about appreciating both masculine and feminine strengths – and so (a) being more effective, (b) creating inclusive workplaces and (c) getting better results. But I shape and approach the core point many ways to fit the needs of a particular group. Here are facets I’m covering this spring:

  • Last week I addressed the Colorado Women’s Bar Association about how successful women must “shift” and use both masculine and feminine strengths – and how to do that authentically and without burning out or losing one’s authenticity.
  • Then I co-facilitated a workshop with Stewart Hirsch at the Association of Legal Administrators annual conference in Nashville. We worked on the value of increasing gender diversity and how law firm administrators can help their firms reduce gender bias. At the same conference, I did a talk on how to get the most powerful and influential people in the firm (generally men) involved in gender diversity efforts.
  • I’m doing a program June 12 at the Harvard Women & Power 2015 Global Leaders’ Summit on women working with women – how and why women should but don’t always support other women. (I’ve written about women as supporters and “saboteurs.”)
  • At the June “Savvy Salon” of the Leadership Investment, I’ll speak on the intersection of gender and generations – looking at the commonalities among women of the four generations in today’s workplace and where inter-generational tensions can be different or more intense for women than men.

Designing different workshops and speeches takes a lot more time and effort than delivering the same speech over and over. But I think the topic of gender diversity has lots of facets – many sub-topics and applications. I am willing to put in the work to approach the topic any way that works for forwarding my mission – to help create a world where both masculine and feminine strengths are valued and leveraged – and my vision – a world where gender diversity is the norm and organizations thrive as men and women succeed and lead together.

 


authorTonight I was on a panel of four authors. One question from the audience was, “How many of you blog?” Authors who were also English majors and English teachers know that “blog” is a noun, not a verb. Nevertheless, this lawyer-English major-English teacher raised her hand. But then I realized I haven’t “blogged” this week!

Each author on the author panel spoke about the passion that drove them to write, the process of writing and the publishing process. The passion part was easy for me. I lived the life of a woman in the corporate world. I made it pretty far – to the “C-suite.” Not knowing that (the required) shifting from feminine to masculine style had exhausted me, I stepped off the ladder.

My passion emerged. I wanted to change the shape of corporate America – more women at the top, leading alongside men. I wanted to help men and women see why the needle has moved so slowly in getting more women to the top – and show them what it will take to achieve true gender diversity. I wanted to make the path easier for women.

I was about half way through my corporate/lawyer career when I began to study what my gender had to do with how far I got — and how far I didn’t. I thought, “Why didn’t somebody tell me this 20 years ago?” So I’ve been telling women and men what I wish I had known.

The writing part was easy. I had worked with my colleague Steffie Allen to evolve an instrument she and her sister Carolyn Zeiger had developed – a continuum of “gender” differences. The content we developed in our workshops was so good it had to be shared in a book. I changed it to a continuum of masculine-feminine differences, refined a few of the dimensions, then added my personal stories to demonstrate each dimension. The words flowed – though I stopped to study, study, study and correctly cite resources.

Publishing was the scary part. Who would help me edit, design the content, choose a book cover and market? The publishing world was and is in flux. I found a guide and latched on. It was a true birthing process.

Now my book is three years old. It has been my “calling card,” giving me credibility and opening the door to speaking engagements. It has helped me make a difference. But there is so far to go. Do I want another baby? Do I update it? Publish a workbook? Or just keep “blogging” and doing workshops?


token woman Everyone knows that having women on a company’s board of directors is good for the company’s bottom line. (If you need a refresher, click on the business case, a free download on my website.) A Catalyst study indicates that what makes a difference to the bottom line is not having a woman but having women — plural. A 2006 study concluded that “a critical mass of three or more women can cause a fundamental change in the boardroom and enhance corporate governance.” When there are three, “women are no longer seen as outsiders and are able to influence the content and process of board discussions more substantially.”

This makes sense. If there is one woman, she may not speak up, she may be talked over, or her ideas may be credited to a man who repeats them. As a result, the feminine voice will not be represented. There is no real gender diversity. There is just a token.

When there is a critical mass of women, there is a tipping point. Less likely to feel like outsiders, they are more likely to speak up and be heard. Feminine strengths can be expressed. This is what explains the better results — having a balance of feminine and masculine strengths. Good decisions and good results follow.

If business leaders understood this, you would not expect them to be satisfied with one token woman — or even two. Yet many companies seem satisfied with having a single woman on the board.

There is evidence that “one” is becoming an acceptable norm for women in senior management roles. Recently reported research shows that, when a woman achieves one of the five highest-paying executive jobs in the S&P 500, “the chances of another woman joining the executive team are a whopping 51% lower.” [C]ompanies with top women executives typically had just one.” (This “negative spillover effect” is not caused by the women who get to the top; it is less likely to happen in firms led by women CEO’s.) The research suggests that “firms might be operating with ‘implicit quotas’ in mind.” Having one senior woman, they have “checked the box” on gender diversity objectives.

Why would leaders impose an implicit quota? Is it simply that, after one woman makes it to the top, leaders relax their gender diversity efforts? Is it the unenlightened thought that, if women succeed, men will lose? Is it that leaders do not believe the research showing the value of gender diversity? Is it simply unconscious gender bias? Is it fear of change? We need to understand the underlying cause – so we can understand what it will take for business leaders to drop these “quotas”!


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