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.

Masculine-Feminine Difference: How We THINK

The prototypical masculine world view and feminine world view are different. The masculine sees things hierarchically. The feminine sees things in terms of relationships. One “driver” of differences in behavior is the differences in thinking. The male brain is wired for focus and linear thinking. The female brain is wired to gather and synthesize.The reason better decisions come from gender-diverse groups is because of the balance of these two ways of thinking. We need both!

Influencing Two Ways: Valuing Masculine and Feminine Approaches

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.

Better Decisions: Balancing Masculine and Feminine Approaches

If feminine ways of making decisions are “Fran,” and the masculine approach to decision-making is “Max,” we are all “Frax.” We are “Frax-wise” when we can use and appreciate both approaches. In the area of decision-making, Max’s approach (the masculine)) is to focus on the goal and approach it in a logical, linear and efficient way. Fran focuses also on the process, gathers ideas, involves others and synthesizes input. Both ways are valuable in different circumstances. Frax-wise people know when to use which; they appreciate someone whose approach is different from their own and know the value of having both on a team. Frax-wise leaders know this difference can create obstacles and work to lower those obstacles.