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.
There are three unconscious “mind-sets” that give rise to obstacles for women in business. They are the double bind, the comfort principle and unconscious images of leadership. We all have both masculine and feminine ways; we call that being “Frax”–a blend of the prototype of the masculine (Max) and the prototype of the feminine (Fran). Being “Frax-wise” is being “gender intelligent.” Frax-wise leaders are conscious of the mind-sets that create barriers and so work to lower them.
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.