DifferenceWORKS Is Three Years Old!

My company, DifferenceWORKS is celebrating three years in business. Although women have been in the business world for decades, women are far from proportionally represented at upper levels in business. There is a compelling business case for gender diversity; businesses do better with women and men leading together. I set out to make a difference in this area. Birthdays are good times to review accomplishments; I chronicle what DifferenceWORKS has done in its first three years.

Warren Is in the House! Buffet Promoting Women

Warren Buffet has joined the conversation about the importance of having women, as well as men, in leadership positions in business. He stresses men’s self-interest in leveraging the talents of women. Business has done great using only 50% of the talent pool, with women essentially “on the shelf.” It will do better with the talents of 100% of the workforce.

Women Just Need to Find the “Switch” to Succeed!

A 2011 study by Stanford School of Business says that the most promotions in their study went to women who can demonstrate certain masculine strengths (assertiveness, dominance, confidence, aggressiveness) BUT who can “self-monitor” and balance such behaviors with feminine behaviors. Successful women must be assertive and confident to make it into management — but not “too” assertive or confident. That’s the double bind. Women must also leverage feminine strengths — building community, collaborating, synthesizing multiple ideas, creating inclusive teams, etc. Both men and women are better leaders if they can model and leverage both masculine and feminine ways of leading. Leaders must appreciate both and create inclusive cultures where both are valued.

Why the Workplace is Still Primarily Masculine

Gender diversity makes it more likely there will be a balance of masculine and feminine ways of thinking and working. That improves results. Even as more women are in the workplace, many organizations have a culture that is more masculine than balanced. My theories on why include that masculine women are drawn to the business world, women adapt to the prevailing norm, and feminine women don’t rise to the top. Achieving the masculine/feminine balance that drives results requires leaders who understand, appreciate and model both approaches.

What Women Must Do to Get to the Top: Walk a Tight Rope and Chew Gum

I usually focus on what leaders can do to create inclusive cultures and achieve gender diversity in leadership. Women themselves can do things to improve their odds of reaching the top. To be seen as leaders, be heard and get credit for accomplishments they must do some “masculine” things–speak up, act confident, take risks, ask for what they want, toot their horns. But if they act “too” masculine, they will be caught in the double bind. Avoiding the double bind while demonstrating leadership can be like walking a tightrope and chewing gum!