I need to take my own advice. My mission is to make gender diversity in business leadership a reality. Doing that requires creating inclusive workplace cultures that value both masculine and feminine ways of working and leading. Since more women than men demonstrate feminine styles, women will benefit from such a culture. Valuing both makes individuals more effective, creates greater inclusion and engagement and lowers obstacles to gender diversity. As a former attorney and corporate executive, I demonstrate many masculine strengths. I am working on honoring the feminine aspects of myself!
The CNN Series on The Sixties chronicles all kinds of changes that occurred five decades ago. There has been remarkable progress in terms of seeing women in positions of power and authority. Images of what women can do and where they belong are changing. Are we there yet? Women represent nearly 47% of the Fortune 500 workforce yet only 4.8% of CEO’s We are not “there” until women and men compete on a level field and we value masculine and feminine approaches equally.
In this guest blog, Rich Grenhart looks at the evolution of attitudes about gender relations. As we better understand the value of masculine and feminine approaches for both genders, we can observe and even affect the evolution of thinking. There are vestiges of the “might makes right” world of the caveman in businesses that value competition over collaboration. John Gerzema thinks it is time to have a balance of masculine and feminine ways of thinking and leading. Understanding that masculine and feminine qualities arise in both genders frees men to demonstrate feminine strengths and women to demonstrate masculine strengths. The pace of reaching gender equality has been too slow. We need to contribute to the evolution toward gender equity!
I recently read about a theory called “stereotype incongruity.” It means that stereotypes of leaders “match” stereotypes of men more closely than they do stereotypes of women. This kind of thinking is real; it is behind the gendered view of leadership. The thinking is flawed, first, because stereotypes are not true; many women fit masculine stereotypes. Second, it is flawed because the stereotype of leadership fails to recognize the value of feminine leadership strengths. I agree with John Gerzema that leaders today need to have both masculine and feminine strengths!
In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg points to internal barriers that hold women back. Many are just “feminine” ways. Women are wired and acculturated to value relationships more than status and to avoid bragging. This looks like lower ambition. Women tend to speak more humbly; this looks like lower confidence. I agree that, to make it to the top, women must demonstrate ambition and confidence. But my hope is that one day leaders will understand and appreciate feminine as well as masculine style and see leadership in both.
Why do I focus on a specific form of diversity (gender or generational differences at work) rather than more broadly on diversity and inclusion? I take an inductive approach, believing that awareness of the value of one form of difference can be applied to other forms of difference. Why not start with the largest group under-represented at leadership levels (women)? As a white woman, I have more credibility on the issue of women in business than on race or sexual orientation. We have lots of opportunity to practice on gender differences. I want both masculine and feminine strengths applied to solving the big issues facing the world; having a balance of men and women makes that more likely. That’s why.