When women experience inequality we get frustrated, even outright angry. If our desires and voices are ignored, we may lash out and create a scene. And when given an opportunity to fix what we see is wrong with the world, we implement new ideas and hope they stick.
I am talking about Ellen Pao, who famously lost a high-profile gender discrimination suit earlier this year against Kleiner Perkins. Pao is now the interim CEO of Reddit and she recently announced a ban on salary negotiations at the social media company. Pao has taken away an opportunity for women to earn higher wages under the guise of offering a fair wage, the same wage, for the role being filled regardless of gender or lack of savvy negotiation skills.
The article “How women lose out in salary talks” by Laura Kray in the Los Angeles Times this past weekend muses about the seeming absurdity of taking away an important tool for women in the pursuit of equal pay. And as a feminist, I cannot agree with Ellen Pao’s concept. It means we relinquish our right to stand up for ourselves and ask for what we are worth as individuals. This maneuver by Pao undermines the reasons a person is hired over all the other applicants—the unique skills and experience that can evolve a role instead of just filling it are not rewarded.
It is simply a fact that the current system of power has been based on how the majority of men innately think and behave. The reason so many women are hitting their heads on that infamous glass ceiling is because more and more women wish to be a part of the power system and it is just not ready for us. We need to change the system so it reflects and supports our present social structures. (I wrote more about this here.)
As with any change, we are struggling with the transition.
We know what male leadership looks like, so why can’t we accept that women leadership is different? The very reason I created The Women’s Code was to begin constructing the women leadership category. It is time to identify and clearly define what a woman leader is and the attributes she has.
Here are three ideas that can foster women leaders and help us achieve true equality:
- .) Teach leadership skills to everyone. Identify attributes that are common in both male and female leaders and support the development of these skills in the school system. Children should be learning life skills, like balancing a checkbook, basic personal finance, negotiation skills, sales skills, and what their super skills are. How can anyone succeed without knowing the basics? And to follow Sheryl Sandberg, flirtation and being “appropriately female” might just be women leadership skills. Why not use them appropriately?
- .) Negotiation is a learnable skill. Instead of taking it away like Ellen Pao did at Reddit, let’s empower women to negotiate better. Part of women leadership training should include how to assert oneself and negotiate with confidence.
- .) Support the unique abilities women have. Let’s finally acknowledge that a woman is the child bearer and primary care giver, and therefore she needs a different support system than a man. Is it really so hard to provide support without judgment or eye rolling when she goes on maternity leave?
Instead of promoting sameness, let’s celebrate our differences. Imagine what can be created by minds that are not restricted or stifled by conventions and old rules. After all, humanities greatest achievements so far have been the result of breaking boundaries. We have no good reason to resist the changes we are faced with this time.