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.
Unconscious and invisible “mind-sets” explain the obstacles for women aspiring to business leadership. They explain why we still do not have gender diversity at the top. Unconscious mental images of how leaders look and act can create barriers for those who do not “look the part.” Leaders who are aware of this natural tendency can stop automatic thinking and look at a person’s results rather than whether they fit the image. Those affected by unconscious images can avoid violating norms of appearance at work; be sure the boss knows their skills and results; and collaborate with others to talk about successes.
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
One of several unconscious mind-sets that create obstacles to gender diversity is the “comfort principle.” People naturally are more comfortable with people like themselves. Access to networks and mentorship are keys to reaching the leadership ranks. If the comfort principle affects who gets great assignments and mentors, this can perpetuate the demographics of leadership. Conscious awareness of this obstacle is its cure. We can stop and be sure the comfort principle is not blocking people from access.
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.