When we talk about “gender bias,” we generally assume we’re talking about a bias against women. Not so fast. The issue is less about men and women and more about a preference for the masculine style. This affects men as well.
Why do companies with women on their boards get better financial results and have higher stock prices? A recent New York Times opinion suggests it is because women make better decisions under stress. There are both masculine and feminine approaches to making decisions. When there is gender diversity in a group, it is more likely that there will be both kinds of decision process. It is the balance of these approaches to making decisions that explain better outcomes. Having women on boards enables this balance.
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!
This — unconscious images — is the third invisible “mind-set” that creates obstacles for women in business. Others are the comfort principle and the double bind. We all have pictures of how things look. If we have unconscious images of leadership and success, they can influence who gets good assignments and promotions. Someone who fits our image (“looks the part”) is more likely to come to mind. One who looks or works or leads differently may be overlooked. Or we may focus on how they work instead of their res
The masculine form of influencing others is based on a hierarchical world-view. The feminine form is based on building and maintaining relationships. Those (men and women) who influence in a masculine way command, tell, and demonstrate dominance. Men and women who influence in a feminine way do so through persuasion. We can wisely use our understanding of these differences, and the strengths of each approach, to be more effective. Our understanding and appreciation of these differences enables us to be more inclusive. Leader who appreciate these differences are aware that they can create obstacles, for example, for feminine leaders who do not “lead from the front.” They can see leadership strengths in those who lead collaboratively.
Concepts of good leadership are often associated with how men tend to lead (masculine forms of leadership). The feminine form of leadership is different but equally effective. Sometimes the results achieved by women who exhibit feminine leadership styles are overlooked. The focus is on how they operate and how it is different from the norm. Getting gender diversity at the top requires that we expand our definitions of leadership.