Deaf, Blind, Biased – or Stumped? Why Leaders Don’t Respond to the Business Case for Gender Diversity

Why might the message about the value of diversity not be heard? Why might leaders hear it but not buy it? Why do men who do buy it not take effective action? These are not rhetorical questions. I have some ideas but I want your thoughts.

Women at Work: Gender Diversity Making a Big News Splash!

In one news program this week, there was more news about women at work than about anything else. Germany is requiring companies to have women represent 30% of board members. Japan’s Prime Minister announced a goal of having women fill 30% of leadership positions. And Sheryl Sandberg is urging men to “Lean In.” With so much news coverage, could we being reaching a tipping point in people’s awareness of the business value of gender diversity?

Talk About (Gender) Bias

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant make some pretty obvious points in the first of their four-part New York Times series on women at work. Their punchline is that raising awareness of gender stereotypes and bias is not enough. Only by expressing disapproval of the biases and resulting barriers facing women can we change the facts on gender diversity in leadership. I express disapproval. Now let’s change those facts!

Changing Our Images of Women

One of the mindsets that create obstacles for women in the workplace is “unconscious images.” We have mental pictures of how leadership looks and what women want and can do. In our workshops, we bring this and other mindsets to conscious awareness. In the news, we see women leaders and experts, including Fortune 500 CEO’s. Lean-In.org and Getty Images have joined these efforts to broaden our images of women’s potential. They have published a gallery of 2,500 images of women and men that challenge old stereotypes.