She is “helpful” but “too assertive.” He “shows initiative” and “solves problems.” Research shows that the language used in performance reviews for men and women is very different. The language clearly reflects underlying gender bias. Can making managers more aware of their language actually uproot and change gender biases?
New research confirms what we know. Being one of very few women in a “male-dominated” organization or field can be stressful. Researchers found high levels of the stress hormone cortisol (“linked with later negative health outcomes”) in women in this situation. Even in industries where women are well represented, men dominate upper levels of management. It is stressful to walk the tightrope of the “double bind” and work to be heard and seen as competent. So my guess is that this research is applicable to many many women in business.
Are obstacles for women in the workplace likely to disappear when Millennials run the world? In our workshops, we address the unconscious “mind-sets” that still affect women’s ability to reach their potential. We are often asked if these issues are disappearing in the younger generations in today’s workforce. Do young people truly have a less “gendered” view of leadership qualities? Will their images of leadership and success be less predictably masculine? Will gender diverse leadership be the norm?
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.
When you need to solve a novel and important problem, what kind of leader do you want in charge? Does the word “decisive” make your list? What do we mean by “decisive”? Usually we mean the masculine decision style – moving straight to the goal. While this is often effective, the feminine decision style has different benefits, including creativity and buy-in. The feminine style is to gather ideas, synthesize and process. It takes more time but can avoid costly misses. The best leaders can make decisions in both masculine and feminine ways and value both ways in others.
One of the mindsets that create obstacles for women in the workplace is “unconscious images.” We have mental pictures of how leadership looks and what women want and can do. In our workshops, we bring this and other mindsets to conscious awareness. In the news, we see women leaders and experts, including Fortune 500 CEO’s. Lean-In.org and Getty Images have joined these efforts to broaden our images of women’s potential. They have published a gallery of 2,500 images of women and men that challenge old stereotypes.