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?
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.
Arin Reeves uses the terms “Mansplaining,” “Manterrupting” and “Bropropriating” to describe ways in which men interrupt women. These phenomena have received lots of attention lately—by Sandberg and Grant in the NYT, Joann Lipman in the WSJ – and by me. Can awareness help assure that women are heard and get credit for their ideas? Fixing this can support the engagement and retention of women – and that is good for business results.
The fourth article by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant is titled “How Men Can Succeed in the Boardroom and the Bedroom.” About a third of the article is about how gender diversity at work is good for men (as well as women). They call it a “surprising truth” that “equality is good for men, too.” Research over at least a decade has confirmed the business value of gender diversity. So, to me, it is hardly “surprising.” The business case for gender diversity, however, can’t penetrate unconscious mind-sets. I want more spotlight on why women are not better represented at the top. I want the spotlight to be wider than on alleviating work-life pressures. We need to shine the light on, and uproot, the unconscious mind-sets that create obstacles for women in business.
Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant make some pretty obvious points in the first of their four-part New York Times series on women at work. Their punchline is that raising awareness of gender stereotypes and bias is not enough. Only by expressing disapproval of the biases and resulting barriers facing women can we change the facts on gender diversity in leadership. I express disapproval. Now let’s change those facts!