Yes, there is progress in seeing more women at leadership levels in business; but the pace remains glacial. We need to understand the reasons at the deepest level – so we can pick up the pace and capture the known benefits. I was invited to post a blog on the London School of Economics Business Review. I used the opportunity to express my thoughts on the root cause. I hope you’ll read it!
Joanne Lipman’s recent article in the WSJ provides a “guide” for men to women at work. She says that women get enough advice and provides some to men. Men should understand that women have a different way of speaking; they should not wait for women to raise their hands; they should not fear that a woman will cry and should give direct feedback. And they should recognize that women work hard for the credibility that comes automatically to them. Good advice!
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.
Unconscious mind-sets are at the root of the barriers that cause women in business to disengage and not reach their potential. These are the obstacles to gender diversity. One is the “double bind.” If you are aware of this (it is not unconscious), you can alter your thinking and behavior. Women can whine and call “unfair” (it isn’t). But it is a reality. They can improve their skill of reading situations and choosing whether to operate in a masculine or feminine way. They can help others see this invisible barrier but must avoid defensiveness.
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.