Do you think that leadership that incorporates masculine and feminine strengths can benefit men as well as women?
I am adding to my pile of studies showing that gender bias is real. This one shows that male biology students over-rated their male colleagues and under-estimated better performing women. This goes in the stack with Heidi vs Howard and Kristen Schilt’s work with 54 transgendered men. Do you know people who still question the existence of gender bias? Share these studies with them. Awareness of our biases is the first step in changing them.
I periodically update the research that forms the business case for gender balance at the leadership level. Here is my latest update. I review studies showing the business benefit of diversity and inclusion generally. Gender diversity brings all these benefits and more.
Women in business and professions know they must sometimes be masculine, sometime feminine. Can women do this “shifting” without burning out or losing themselves? It is natural and smart to select from different “versions” of ourselves when we move from one situation to another. But it can be costly. If a woman who prefers a feminine style has to behave in masculine ways a lot, she may become an “honorary man,” become exhausted or dis-engage. If she does so consciously, intentionally, “mindfully,” can she avoid these costs?
My difference (gender) from the norm at the top of my corporation made me sensitive to diversity issues. In participating in diversity programs and training, I saw how much energy goes into trying to fit in. That lost energy costs creativity and quality. In an inclusive culture, where people feel heard and valued, engagement is higher. Inclusion and engagement drive productivity, innovation and results.
One of several unconscious mind-sets that create obstacles to gender diversity is the “comfort principle.” People naturally are more comfortable with people like themselves. Access to networks and mentorship are keys to reaching the leadership ranks. If the comfort principle affects who gets great assignments and mentors, this can perpetuate the demographics of leadership. Conscious awareness of this obstacle is its cure. We can stop and be sure the comfort principle is not blocking people from access.