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.
Men in my workshops used to hesitate to claim feminine strengths, perhaps concerned they would be called a “sissy.” In my book and workshops, I use prototypes for masculine and feminine – Max and Fran. Men in our workshops seem comfortable acknowledging their “Fran” strengths. Maybe it is because more of them understand the value of gender diversity. Some may be convinced, e.g., by the work of McKinsey & Co. and John Gerzema, that leadership must include feminine as well as masculine perspectives. Valuing feminine strengths personally enables authenticity, effectiveness and health. Valuing feminine strengths in others contributes to inclusivity, which drives engagement and results.
In my book and blogs, I explore differences in masculine and feminine approaches to work — e.g., the value of relationships, structure, decision-making, work style and communication style. There are strengths and limitations to the feminine approach. One limitation is in selling products, services and one’s self. The feminine approach avoids the hard sell and tooting one’s own horn. I teach this difference. Yet I am personally hampered by the feminine approach to self-promotion. I have hired a coach to help me LEARN to toot my own horn and be more effective at having others see the value of what I offer.
My company, DifferenceWORKS is celebrating three years in business. Although women have been in the business world for decades, women are far from proportionally represented at upper levels in business. There is a compelling business case for gender diversity; businesses do better with women and men leading together. I set out to make a difference in this area. Birthdays are good times to review accomplishments; I chronicle what DifferenceWORKS has done in its first three years.