The young lawyer worked long hours, did great work, served on firm committees and got along with clients and colleagues. At her performance review, the senior partner noted all of these strengths. But he identified one “area of improvement”: “You are lacking in humility,” he said. I suspect the “double bind” is at play. The double bind is the tightrope women must walk. If they work and behave in more feminine ways, they are not seen as leaders. If they act in masculine ways (or too masculine or too often), they are disliked.
On a panel of authors, each of us spoke about the passion that drove us to write, the process of writing and the publishing process. The passion that drove me to write was that I wanted to change the shape of corporate America (more women at the top); to help men and women see why the needle has moved so slowly in getting more women to the top – and what it will take to achieve true gender diversity; and to make the path easier for women. Writing it was easy and fun. Publishing it was scary and hard at times. I birthed the book. It has made a difference. Should I birth more?
Rich and I delivered a well-received workshop at the third annual WILD Summit (Women Inspiring Leadership Development from the Women’s Council of the Leeds School of Business at CU). We framed as choice (the conference theme) the ability to value and leverage both masculine and feminine strengths. We demonstrated that being able to choose which is most effective in a particular situation is an important career skill. Appreciating both approaches makes one a better and more inclusive leader; the result is broader team engagement, leading to better results. We tackled the subject of how masculine-feminine differences run up against unconscious biases or mindsets, creating obstacles for women in business – and, therefore, gender diversity.
Why does the typical man handle conflict more directly than the typical woman? I believe there are deep roots to the differences in masculine and feminine style of conflict – in nature and nurture. Differences may be rooted in hormonal differences and how children play. In other words, changing how we individually tend to handle conflict takes conscious effort.
After my Huffington Post article on styles of managing conflict, I continued to brood about my own way of handling conflict. Conflict has been particularly ineffective for me when it is with another woman. I find little redeeming value in the feminine (indirect) approach to conflict. And yet I have had little luck doing direct conflict (the masculine style) with women. When women have a dispute, it seems, both need to practice a direct but gentle form of conflict and manage the inevitable emotions.
Generations are created and influenced by experiences in the formative years. They are shaped by ongoing change. Traditionals’ world view and values were shaped by World War II. In their lifetimes, the views of women’s roles have undergone dramatic change. “Retirement” has been redefined. They have seen and been affected by unprecedented technological change. Many women Traditionals today are actively involved, working and contributing. What changes will affect women now in their 20’s?