There are two “languages” in the workplace — masculine and feminine. We use the term “Frax-wise” to describe people who understand, appreciate and leverage both masculine and feminine ways. (We are all “Frax,” a combination of Fran, the feminine prototype, and “Max,” the masculine.) If I am personally Frax-wise, I know which “language” is most effective in which circumstances. In working with others, as a Frax-wise person, I do not take speech styles literally; I know Fran may simply not be expressing his or her ideas powerfully and Max (though sounding confident) may be expressing an opinion. As a Frax-wise leader, I understand that these differences may create obstacles for those who speak “Fran” and I can lower those obstacles. I can be an inclusive leader and get the upsides of gender diversity.
In my quest for gender diversity in leadership, I use the concepts “masculine” and “feminine.” And I use prototypes of each. My point is to avoid stereotyping men and women. I use a common understanding of these concepts to help people see the strengths of both AND to see that both men and women have both. Using different terminology would not make my point as clearly.
Warren Buffet has joined the conversation about the importance of having women, as well as men, in leadership positions in business. He stresses men’s self-interest in leveraging the talents of women. Business has done great using only 50% of the talent pool, with women essentially “on the shelf.” It will do better with the talents of 100% of the workforce.
Big resolutions or goals can be overwhelming. When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I learned that I could achieve a big goal (the summit) by “chunking it down” into small goals or steps. My big goal is gender diversity in the leadership levels of U.S. business. There is much progress on this climb, but we are far from the summit. Achieving it requires (a) that more women make it to the top and (b) that more businesses create inclusive cultures. Each needs to be broken down into small steps. I suggest “mini” goals for each of these outcomes.
While diversity is “the right thing to do,” it will get more support if it is also good for business. A business approach to diversity includes: (1) it is based on facts; (2) there is a strong business case; (3) it is expressed in non-judgmental terms. For example, an initiative to improve gender diversity will be based on where women are represented, turnover rates and levels of measurable engagement. The business case for gender diversity must be spelled out. And root causes for not having gender diversity must be expressed so men aren’t put on the defensive.
Gender diversity at the top will happen only if men becomes allies for the cause. Allies are most likely to be found among three types of men: (1) men who get that their businesses — and they personally — will make more money with gender diversity in leadership; (2) men who have experienced being an outsider or are close to someone who has experienced discrimination; (3) men with daughters who have a personal interest in seeing barriers removed.