If the word “feminist” evokes a negative image of angry, bra-burning women, listen to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudea. Being a feminist simply means valuing women equally with men. He thinks it is no big deal in 2016 to be a feminist. For the U.S. Presidential election, we may have a feminist or someone who is far from a feminist. What difference will that make on gender diversity and equality?
A colleague suggested that we might attract more people, particularly men, to our cause if we emphasize, not gender diversity, but the business benefits of gender inclusion. Another author and facilitator reminded me that we get better results by focusing on what we want rather than on the “problem” we are trying to solve. Help me apply these two insights. If we invite people to a workshop about organizational culture and results, do we indicate up front, or once they are in the room, that the drivers we focus on are inclusive leadership and gender diversity? I want to focus on the desired outcome (businesses that thrive because of gender diversity) and not the “problem” (unconscious gender bias). How do we effectively address unconscious bias?
The topic of gender diversity has lots of facets – many sub-topics and applications. I am willing to put in the work to design many different workshops and speeches. All forward my mission – to help create a world where both masculine and feminine strengths are valued and leveraged – and my vision – a world where gender diversity is the norm and organizations thrive as men and women succeed and lead together.
Rich and I delivered a well-received workshop at the third annual WILD Summit (Women Inspiring Leadership Development from the Women’s Council of the Leeds School of Business at CU). We framed as choice (the conference theme) the ability to value and leverage both masculine and feminine strengths. We demonstrated that being able to choose which is most effective in a particular situation is an important career skill. Appreciating both approaches makes one a better and more inclusive leader; the result is broader team engagement, leading to better results. We tackled the subject of how masculine-feminine differences run up against unconscious biases or mindsets, creating obstacles for women in business – and, therefore, gender diversity.
McKinsey & Company issues an annual report called “Women Matter.” McKinsey has researched the bottom-line value of gender diversity, what has been effective in successful gender diversity initiatives – and what is still in the way. One of the things in the way is “unacknowledged mindsets.” “Cultural factors” are a key reason so few women reach the top. Culture reflects the “mindsets” of an organization’s leaders. The key to creating an inclusive culture is bringing unconscious mindsets to consciousness so attitudes and behaviors shift. In our workshops, we help bring awareness to those mindsets – the double bind, the comfort principle and unconscious images.
Men in my workshops used to hesitate to claim feminine strengths, perhaps concerned they would be called a “sissy.” In my book and workshops, I use prototypes for masculine and feminine – Max and Fran. Men in our workshops seem comfortable acknowledging their “Fran” strengths. Maybe it is because more of them understand the value of gender diversity. Some may be convinced, e.g., by the work of McKinsey & Co. and John Gerzema, that leadership must include feminine as well as masculine perspectives. Valuing feminine strengths personally enables authenticity, effectiveness and health. Valuing feminine strengths in others contributes to inclusivity, which drives engagement and results.