Have you ever seen people not only judge, but actually fear, a way of doing things different from their own way? I already knew that leaders may not think of women because they do not “look the part.” Now I know they may actually fear giving assignments and promotions to a woman. They have a harder time envisioning her succeeding. And they may fear that her different (feminine) approach will not get as good a result as the more common (masculine) approach.
Women in business and professions know they must sometimes be masculine, sometime feminine. Can women do this “shifting” without burning out or losing themselves? It is natural and smart to select from different “versions” of ourselves when we move from one situation to another. But it can be costly. If a woman who prefers a feminine style has to behave in masculine ways a lot, she may become an “honorary man,” become exhausted or dis-engage. If she does so consciously, intentionally, “mindfully,” can she avoid these costs?
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.