In many parts of the world, women’s voices are suppressed. In our western culture, in particular in the U.S. corporate world, women’s voices are not “suppressed.” But they are often not fully heard. Why not? Let me suggest four challenges, with the hope that awareness can help us better hear women’s voices right here in the USA. The feminine style of speech sounds less confident. Women assert themselves only when they really know. Women get “talked over.” And women who do speak up face the “double bind.”
Why do women not speak up (as much as men) in meetings? The real reason, say Sharyl Sandberg and Adam Grant in their NYT series, is the “double bind.” If women don’t speak up, hold the floor and speak with confidence, they are not heard or seen as leaders. If they do, they are seen as aggressive (called the “B-word”). They offer some suggestions. I add my own.
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!
Unconscious mind-sets are at the root of the barriers that cause women in business to disengage and not reach their potential. These are the obstacles to gender diversity. One is the “double bind.” If you are aware of this (it is not unconscious), you can alter your thinking and behavior. Women can whine and call “unfair” (it isn’t). But it is a reality. They can improve their skill of reading situations and choosing whether to operate in a masculine or feminine way. They can help others see this invisible barrier but must avoid defensiveness.
One obstacle for women in business reaching the top is the double bind. If men become more aware of this problem, they can lower an obstacle to gender diversity. Business workplaces tend to be more masculine than feminine in nature. To succeed, women learn to adopt a masculine style. But if she is “too” masculine “too often,” she may be penalized. If she operat