Unconscious gender bias is the root cause of business’ slow progress in capturing the business benefits of gender diversity. Having unconscious bias is simply human as Shankar Vedantam shows in his book “The Hidden Brain.” It is hard to change ways we aren’t even aware we have been wired, taught or acculturated to think. Our approach starts with helping people understand and appreciate both masculine and feminine strengths – in men and women.
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!
On a panel of authors, each of us spoke about the passion that drove us to write, the process of writing and the publishing process. The passion that drove me to write was that I wanted to change the shape of corporate America (more women at the top); to help men and women see why the needle has moved so slowly in getting more women to the top – and what it will take to achieve true gender diversity; and to make the path easier for women. Writing it was easy and fun. Publishing it was scary and hard at times. I birthed the book. It has made a difference. Should I birth more?
I teach others to value difference, particularly gender and generational differences. I need to learn to value one type of difference that is unrelated to gender or age – the difference between “A-type” and “B-type” personalities. As an “A-type,” I move quickly from one task to another and want things done now. “B-types” take things more slowly and like to do one thing at a time. We can drive one another crazy – or we can recognize difference and appreciate strengths different from my own.
I recently traveled to Turkey and saw a living (actually NOT living) example of how importance diversity is. At the formation of the country of Turkey, there was a “population exchange” between Greece and Turkey. Christians were sent to Greece; Muslims were sent to Turkey. Christians and Muslims had lived peacefully together for generations. Towns lost the diversity in their populations. And, as a result, towns died. Difference works! It does not work to eliminate difference. The town of Kayakoy is a memorial to the importance of difference.
The masculine form of influencing others is based on a hierarchical world-view. The feminine form is based on building and maintaining relationships. Those (men and women) who influence in a masculine way command, tell, and demonstrate dominance. Men and women who influence in a feminine way do so through persuasion. We can wisely use our understanding of these differences, and the strengths of each approach, to be more effective. Our understanding and appreciation of these differences enables us to be more inclusive. Leader who appreciate these differences are aware that they can create obstacles, for example, for feminine leaders who do not “lead from the front.” They can see leadership strengths in those who lead collaboratively.