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.
I am quoted and used as an example in Arianna Huffington’s new book, Thrive – to make the point that women often get off the corporate ladder for reasons other than raising children. Women sometimes do not feel valued in a culture that models and more highly values masculine attributes. That can reduce engagement and enjoyment. Huffington’s mission is to change the workplace for women and men, to make it healthier and more sustainable. Women are perhaps the “canaries in the coal mine,” the first to signal that the workplace is toxic and must change.
I am seeing more and more focus on the issue of why there are not more women at the leadership level of U.S. business. Yet there is so little progress. I agree with other experts that the causes exist at the unconscious level. Our goal is to create awareness of the invisible obstacles to gender diversity at the top — the double bind, the comfort principle and unconscious images. Lowering these obstacles starts with awareness. Like the blind spot in our car, once we know about it, we can manage it. We can change mind-sets once they are conscious.
Common sense — and studies — confirm that engaged people do better work and are more likely to stay. Engagement is linked with retention, productivity and profitability. Feeling different — like an “outsider” — can undermine engagement.Spending energy figuring out the rules and fitting in takes energy away from quality and efficiency. In today’s diverse workforce, leaders cannot engage everyone the same. Leaders must understand and appreciate difference to have broad engagement.
Big resolutions or goals can be overwhelming. When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I learned that I could achieve a big goal (the summit) by “chunking it down” into small goals or steps. My big goal is gender diversity in the leadership levels of U.S. business. There is much progress on this climb, but we are far from the summit. Achieving it requires (a) that more women make it to the top and (b) that more businesses create inclusive cultures. Each needs to be broken down into small steps. I suggest “mini” goals for each of these outcomes.