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?
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.
Do women do more “helping” tasks (vs “working”) in your office? Yes, say Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. They get no credit from it at performance review time but are penalized in evaluations if they decline to “help.” “Helping (which includes planning events, helping a co-worker, taking notes in meetings, and getting coffee for others) costs energy and opportunities. Sandberg and Grant say men need to “acknowledge” this problem and then speak up. I agree that raising awareness is the starting point and hope their articles are raising awareness.
I write about the unconscious mindsets that create obstacles for gender diversity in business leadership. A recent medical challenge has shown me how quickly an unhelpful mindset can be created. It lowered my standard for productivity. To re-engage in my work (my mission), I have to become aware of this mindset and take action to change it. This makes me less judgmental about the mindsets that are the root of obstacles for women.
Are there different or more difficult challenges in the area of business development for women vs. men? Women in general express less confidence and have a harder time “tooting their own horn” or selling themselves. In building relationships with male prospects, women have to choose a social setting that is comfortable for both – and does not look like a “date” or “come on.” Women need to stretch their boundaries and learn to enjoy “male” sports – like golf; that is where business is developed! There may be leftovers of old ways of thinking about women. Male prospects may have different or lower cultural expectations about women.