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!
Are there different or more difficult challenges in the area of business development for women vs. men? Women in general express less confidence and have a harder time “tooting their own horn” or selling themselves. In building relationships with male prospects, women have to choose a social setting that is comfortable for both – and does not look like a “date” or “come on.” Women need to stretch their boundaries and learn to enjoy “male” sports – like golf; that is where business is developed! There may be leftovers of old ways of thinking about women. Male prospects may have different or lower cultural expectations about women.
Three recent studies demonstrate the depth of unconscious bias that affects women. These “mindsets” keep women (and minorities) from reaching their potential in business. One study showed that transgendered men (formerly women in the workplace) got higher performance ratings and greater access once they became men. Another showed higher evaluations of the same resume when it had a man’s name than when it had a woman’s name. Another showed more positive response to an identical e-mail when the name indicated the sender was a man than when it indicated the sender was a woman or person of color. Women and people of color will be proportionally represented in leadership ranks only when these mindsets arise to conscious awareness – and change.
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!