January 2, 2012
You are hearing more lately about women wanting to become better leaders, women seeing themselves as more natural leaders, or women advancing more readily into the ranks of upper management.
Newfangled trends come along all the time. You gotta wonder — if this is one of those silly temporary things. You ask yourself:
- What is gender balance?
- What is a gender-neutral workforce?
- Why is it important for me to know about it, regardless of my gender?
- How can my view of gender in leadership make me a stronger business?
Here’s my version of the recent history and what has led us to new developments.
The preceding generation of women was largely homemakers (the mothers of the baby boomer generation), and few entered the traditional workforce at anything more than an hourly job. Within a half-generation or more, the ones that advanced into management had no female role models. The only business styles they had seen at work were those of men.
Enter the viper – a woman acting like a man and taking on a leadership style that carries many gender-dependent traits like control, corrective action, and individual decision-making. The problem: it is unnatural for her yet she sees it as “the way you do this.” Many women do not realize that the leadership she deploys in a host of other areas like family and community are actually quite refreshing and beneficial to the work environment too. But they too often feel like an oddball if they don’t do it the way a man would do it.
Fast forward to present-day. The baby boomers are well-entrenched into leadership, leading many companies and realizing the success of their hard work. Yet, the female representation in leadership has still lagged behind. Of the Fortune 500 Companies, fewer than ten are led by woman. Is it perhaps because that lack of role models has created a mental barrier? Is it that women opt out for family reasons? What?
It is a HOST of things that cause the imbalance, but what no one wants is a barrier that exists when a woman IS capable, IS experienced, IS a good fit for advancement, but IS held back by a culture that cannot picture her in that position.
Perhaps it is an old story – women are not happy, women are not getting fair treatment, whatever ….
But within the past five years, research has surfaced making an incredibly compelling case for all industries to look at the gender balance in their ranks because it is nearly a direct cause-effect to potential for success.
Yes, I said that … nearly a direct cause-and-effect in achieving success when you have more women leading at work. Research is telling us that those businesses with female leadership enjoy a different culture and engage employees differently. Women who are influencing as leaders can have a different and quite symbiotic approach to men. A balance would be perfect.
See the link below for articles from McKinsey, Pax World, and others for more research, and how natural female traits like collaborative problem solving and empathy help to mature companies into thriving industries.
Your tip this month is a challenge to open your mind to what is developing in your workplace to help build natural traits of both men and women.
Oh, and one final note. You heard many generalizations in this month’s tip. We call them genderalizations – sweeping conclusions about something simply based on gender. I know, I know. There is a danger in it but we feel that using it to help identify the predictable patterns in a majority of situations is worth the risk.