Women at the Top: So Much Attention, So Little Progress

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.

“Gendered” Definitions of Leadership: Who Is “Decisive”?

By “gendered” definitions of leadership, I mean definitions of leadership that are based on masculine vs. feminine ways of leading. We may associate the term “decisive,” with masculine ways of making decisions and solving problems. A feminine decision includes involving others, gathering ideas and processing input. This gets great results, but may be mistaken for indecisiveness. I want people to appreciate both masculine and feminine ways of working and free concepts of leadership from notions of gender.

Enough about Leaning In! We Need to Become Bilingual!

Sandberg’s advice fits into a large genre of advice for women on how to succeed in the masculine workplace. She correctly says women need to appear more confident. The typical man speaks with confidence even when he is wrong; the typical woman speaks more hesitantly even when she is sure. While advising women to learn to speak more confidently, we need to encourage leaders to understand the gender differences in communication. Translate vs. taking literally. Bilingual cultures (inclusive cultures) allow women to feel valued and be engaged. That’s good for business.

“Leaning In” to Be Quarterbacks!

I respond to a football analogy about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. My brother suggested most women don’t want to be at the top in the business world. Like a “tight end” on a football field, they should be happy with their role and not worry that they are not the quarterback. The point of Sandberg’s book is that IF a woman wants to reach the top, she should lean in. My point is that the playing field is not level. Lots of women who are qualified to be quarterback are held back and hold themselves back.

Ambition: Sandberg Says Women Need More of It

Sheryl Sandberg goes beyond the issue of “having it all.” She suggests that women need to demonstrate more ambition. To avoid stereotyping, I suggest the question is whether women in general are less ambitious or express it differently. Sandberg is observing differences in how the prototypical male and female express ambition. The masculine way is to compete and win. Women in general are less likely to ask for what they want; they wait to apply for a position until they feel fully qualified; they have a harder time taking credit for their successes. We can coach women to appear more ambitious in the masculine way. I would like to see equal focus on coaching leaders to recognize and appreciate differences.