In celebrating the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, I reflect on the dream of having people judged on their contributions, not on how they look. My dream is a world where leadership and success are based on talent and contribution, not on how we look or on gendered definitions of leadership. We have come a long way but have far to go.
The proximity of three big holidays makes me reflect on the mission of Difference WORKS — helping create workplaces that value, in both men and women, both masculine and feminine ways of thinking, working and leading. This is a niche in the broader field of diversity and inclusion and the issues related to women’s rights. Thanksgiving makes me grateful that American women have made more advances than in many areas of the world. For the season of giving, I give you my holiday greetings and a commitment to keep at my mission. For New Year’s, I hope anything negative for your in 2014 is left behind and that 2015 is great.
I write about the unconscious mindsets that create obstacles for gender diversity in business leadership. A recent medical challenge has shown me how quickly an unhelpful mindset can be created. It lowered my standard for productivity. To re-engage in my work (my mission), I have to become aware of this mindset and take action to change it. This makes me less judgmental about the mindsets that are the root of obstacles for women.
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!
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.
The adage is that two heads are better than one. Collaborating with my colleague to write a proposal reminded me of this. The research shows how and why diverse groups make better decisions, get better outcomes and create more innovation than homogeneous groups. Working with someone who thinks differently than I is harder than working alone or with someone who always agrees with me. But it is worth it!