The numbers and graphs in the report by Lean In and McKinsey & Company, Women in the Workplace 2015, support some beliefs, and challenge some myths, about why women remain underrepresented at the executive level of American business. What about gender bias? The report concludes that women are more likely than men to perceive gender bias. Of course they do! One of the recommendations of the study is training to “interrupt gender bias,” including to assure men can see and understand the challenges women encounter.
A friend recently worried aloud that men need protecting. Women are succeeding in higher education and may take over business! Relax. Yes, women are proportionately over-represented in the educated talent pipeline. But in business they are under-represented above the entry level, and under-compensated, compared to men. I’ll let others address why men are less successful in school and keep working on why women aren’t proportionately represented at the top.
The fourth article by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant is titled “How Men Can Succeed in the Boardroom and the Bedroom.” About a third of the article is about how gender diversity at work is good for men (as well as women). They call it a “surprising truth” that “equality is good for men, too.” Research over at least a decade has confirmed the business value of gender diversity. So, to me, it is hardly “surprising.” The business case for gender diversity, however, can’t penetrate unconscious mind-sets. I want more spotlight on why women are not better represented at the top. I want the spotlight to be wider than on alleviating work-life pressures. We need to shine the light on, and uproot, the unconscious mind-sets that create obstacles for women in business.
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.
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.