I am happy to report a successful launch of my corporate initiative, How Acting Like a Girl is Good for Business: 7 Profit Secrets of Gender-Diverse Corporations! Meaningful conversations have already started with CEO’s, C-Level Executives, and HR departments who are keen to improve the gender gaps within their companies.
As I continue to dive deeper into the topic of gender equality, I have found an interesting idea that’s worth discussing. It is about the methods companies use to improve gender equality in their workplaces, and how—even with the best intentions—their approaches can negatively impact a female employee’s career trajectory.
I watched a great Ted Talk while on my flight to a speaking engagement at the Women in Philanthropy and Leadership (WIPL) conference. The Ted Talk is about Susan Colantuono’s delightfully insightful theory of The Missing 33%™.
Susan says her research shows that women are taught to develop different skill sets than men. For example many women are still struggling with self-confidence (compared to men) and much of the training focuses on fostering what I consider mainly female innate abilities, such as team engagement, building community, and showcasing other team members’ strengths. If women are not taught the “The Missing 33%” of skills (business, strategic and financial acumen) then it becomes quite obvious why we have a very hard time rising past middle management.
In contrast, men appear to get more training and mentoring for strategic planning, finances, and other hard skill sets. Soft skills like confidence training for men? Hardly.
A women’s perspective on achieving success is complex, to say the least. Let’s take a look at a few of the issues:
1.) In The Women’s Code, we talk about many pressures. One example is the Superhuman Paradox, which is the internal drive women have that pushes us to be perfect in all areas of our lives. It leaves us overwhelmed and frazzled. If you can relate, I share techniques on how to conquer the Superhuman Paradox in my book, Happy Woman Happy World.
2.) We are the child bearers and women still manage between 70-80% of tasks around the home. We simply have less time to commit to building our careers, such as networking, upgrading education, and putting in extra hours at the office. This issue is even more pronounced if you are a single mother.
3.) Women don’t have enough female role models who have successfully managed both their careers and family lives. Yes, there are a few, but we deem them as exceptional and it makes their successes seem less attainable to ourselves. The lack of role models also means we don’t have enough data for case studies that could help us figure out how to get more women into those esteemed roles. Fortunately, Kathy Korman-Frey, has set out to change that with her initiative at The Hot Mommas Project on HotMommas.org. It’s worth checking out, especially for young women looking for role models.
There is an overall confusion about what gender equality means for any business. Should we teach women a different skill set than men, such as confidence and time management? Or, should we truly treat everyone equally with a one-size-fits-all leadership training approach? To me, this is one of the biggest misconceptions in business and in leadership training. Feminism was the door opener for equal opportunities—we don’t want to be like men and we certainly don’t hate them. Quite the contrary. We love men and we need them.
Discrimination lawsuits and anti-bullying campaigns force companies to be übersensitive that they are treating everyone the same. Yet, men and women are not the same. We cannot be the same because we bring different skill sets to the table. And that means gender equality should include many more ideas of what constitutes a C-level career path. Ideally, we will eventually move away from a male-female approach, and move toward training and mentoring opportunities that are tailored to the specific skills an individual possesses.
But, for right now, we have to focus on women-specific programs because there are so many of us entering and rising through the workforce without the know-how to navigate our ways. The systems we have to work within were built for men, by men. It’s no wonder we are getting stuck.
We MUST make changes! If we don’t push harder, 65% of all higher education graduates (the women!) will be going into war zones—our own workplaces. If we don’t adjust and change, tensions will only increase and dissatisfaction will grow.
What is your company going to do about this?
Beate Chelette is a respected speaker, career coach, consummate entrepreneur, Author of Happy Woman Happy World, and founder of The Women’s Code, a unique guide to leadership, and personal and career success that offers a new code of conduct for today’s business, private and digital world. Determined to build a community of women helping each other, after selling one of her companies, BeateWorks, to Bill Gates for millions of dollars, Beate created The Women’s Code to share with women everywhere her strategies for success and leadership. Through her corporate initiative “Why Acting Like a Girl Is Good For Business” she helps companies with gender diversification training, and to develop and retain women.