A recent conversation brought to mind how people are missing the mark in trying to achieve gender diversity in leadership. I heard more about (a) how people understand the business value of gender diversity, (b) they don’t know how to get it, and (c) they are still trying to “fix” women instead of eliminating the barriers to gender diversity. How can we shift the focus from “fixing women” to bringing awareness to unconscious gender biases?
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!
Are there different or more difficult challenges in the area of business development for women vs. men? Women in general express less confidence and have a harder time “tooting their own horn” or selling themselves. In building relationships with male prospects, women have to choose a social setting that is comfortable for both – and does not look like a “date” or “come on.” Women need to stretch their boundaries and learn to enjoy “male” sports – like golf; that is where business is developed! There may be leftovers of old ways of thinking about women. Male prospects may have different or lower cultural expectations about women.
In a recent luncheon conversation, I had the impact we aim for in our diversity training. I was speaking with an attorney about the disappointing pace of achieving gender diversity in the legal profession. He asked me why I think law firms have not been more successful in promoting and retaining women at the partnership and leadership levels. I noted that McKinsey & Co. says the reason is unacknowledged “mindsets.” Asked for an example, I talked about what I call the “comfort principle.” He left our lunch aware of how important comfort is in getting opportunities at work. Awareness of this and other “mindsets” enables us to do something about them, lowering obstacles to diversity in the workplace.
McKinsey & Company issues an annual report called “Women Matter.” McKinsey has researched the bottom-line value of gender diversity, what has been effective in successful gender diversity initiatives – and what is still in the way. One of the things in the way is “unacknowledged mindsets.” “Cultural factors” are a key reason so few women reach the top. Culture reflects the “mindsets” of an organization’s leaders. The key to creating an inclusive culture is bringing unconscious mindsets to consciousness so attitudes and behaviors shift. In our workshops, we help bring awareness to those mindsets – the double bind, the comfort principle and unconscious images.