Women in the workplace. Is this a hot topic? The Wall Street Journal seems to think it is still relevant, and maybe even important. In mid-Decemder, a 2-page spread by author Joanne Lipman appeared, titled “Women at Work: A Guide for Men.” Lipman says her goal is to “demystify women” in the workplace, to provide a “career guide – about women.”
My work is about helping men and women understand differences in masculine and feminine perspectives and behaviors. This mission is driven by the compelling business case that Lipman references: “Companies with more women in leadership posts simply perform better.” The Lipman article contains nothing that is new to me or to those who have read my book, participated in our workshops or followed my blogs. But it is good to have these points repeated and broadcast widely.
Lipman asserts that “women don’t need more advice. Men do.” Here are her key points with some of my thoughts.
Women are told to speak assertively and overcome tendencies to express ideas as questions and to add qualifiers and apologies. Lipman tells men they need to understand these differences in communication style and not miss what is said. Women are advised not to give up the floor in meetings. Men, she suggests, should ask women what they think.
I say that men and women will both be more effective at work if they understand and can “translate” masculine and feminine communication styles. Some of these feminine tendencies are deeply rooted in nature and nurture. Some come from culture. Men should also be aware that, when women do speak assertively, it can backfire because of the “double bind.”
Women are advised to “lean in” and ask for promotions and raises rather than wait until they feel “ready.” The WSJ piece suggests that men must appreciate that women are more likely to protest that they are not ready – and not believe them. Yes, men must not wait for women to raise their hands. They need to look at talent and results and not just at whose hands are raised.
Women try to fight or mask tears at work. Men are advised not to fear the tears and to give direct feedback, balancing honesty and empathy. Indeed, the lack of direct, constructive feedback holds women back. There are physiological differences in the tearing mechanism of men and women. If a woman weeps, that does not mean you are cruel or need to fix it!
Women know that men have more “automatic” credibility. It is assumed, says Lipman, that a man is competent until he proves otherwise, the opposite for women. The piece suggests men become aware of their privilege and demonstrate gratitude and recognition to women. This is just one of the unconscious “mind-sets” that keeps women where they are – nearly half of the workforce but declining percentages on the upper rungs of the corporate ladder. Awareness of this and other unconscious mind-sets is the starting point for fully engaging women.
I hope the WSJ piece has reached lots of men. Do you think it can help in the effort to reach gender diversity in leadership?