Not too long ago, I read a new book on gender equality in the workplace. I’ve read many of these types of books but this one was from a different perspective. Rania Anderson’s company, The Way WoMen Work, is specifically geared toward helping male business leaders obtain the skills and perspectives needed to intentionally advance women.
Rania realized long ago that many men want to support women at work but don’t know the best way to do so.
In your book, you mention that, while at companies working with women, men were often stopping you to ask for help. Many men want to know how to work more effectively with women. Given the many years of focus on diversity, did this surprise you?
It did. After I was approached a few times, I recognized that many men are ready to transform their workplaces and the way they work and lead with women.
Some are motivated by talent shortages. Others are under pressure to innovate and understand the changing needs of consumers, many of whom are women. They recognize that they cannot win by continuing to rely on half the talent pool.
Yet others want to have flexibility in their work environment and recognize that the changes that women want in the workplace would also benefit them.
The motivations of the men that spoke to me were varied, but what they were asking for was the same – to no longer be left out of the conversation and to be invited to be part of the solution.
“Just as companies measure return on equity, there’s also a demonstrated return on equality.” -Rania Anderson
Give us an update about your research and work since writing the last book, Break Your Own Rules. What have you been up to and learning?
We conducted original research to help us understand why women were so turned off by office politics and how we could help. We surveyed 134 senior executives in leading organizations, and the results revealed that women and men fundamentally disagree on the overall objective of politics. Women said they use the tools of politics to “manage relationships,” whereas men use them to “win.” Women were far more likely to mention “creating impact and ideas,” while men were more than twice as likely to describe “carving a one-time advantage.”
Women are judged more harshly than men when engaging in office politics, and our lack of access to sponsors puts us at a disadvantage.
Also, women and men have differing approaches to power and influence. It’s collaboration vs. competition.
Study: Women are judged more harshly than men when engaging in office politics.
Daina Middleton takes on the topic in her new book, Grace Meets Grit: How to Bring Out the Remarkable, Courageous Leader Within. In her book, she demonstrates the inherent value of both feminine and masculine leadership styles and how all of us can benefit from an understanding of the value of the different strengths of the sexes. Daina’s experience includes over three decades of business leadership experience in a male-dominated industry. She shares her firsthand observations and stories to help everyone become more effective at leading others. Daina is also an advocate for a more inclusive and practical approach to working together.
I had the opportunity to ask her more about her work.
Women CEOs lag men CEOs in terms of tenure by 2 years.
What’s wrong or missing from the ongoing discussion of gender in the workplace? Why is current gender bias training falling short?
The good news is the gender equality conversation is actually happening. In fact, Google Trends indicates gender equality has actually increased over the past decade. And the equality discussion certainly must continue because the pay parity gap remains large despite the focus on equality. However, a focus on equality is insufficient because equal literally means the same. While their contributions are equally valuable, men and women bring different behaviors to leadership and this is a very good thing. Women are often measured against male leadership behaviors – mostly because men are still largely in charge. The result is unfortunate because there are many benefits to both the male “Grit” style of leadership as well as the more relationship “Grace” approach. Obviously, I am over generalizing to make a point. Most of us have both male and female qualities, and the best leaders strive to cultivate both within themselves as well as within their organizations.
“Inspiring leaders know that trust is vital to inspiration.” -Daina Middleton
Grace and grit. Would you give us a little background on each and how they fit into your model? Do you find that naming grace and grit causes a backlash at all in terms of stereotyping?
A person’s leadership style is based on his or her communications style. Women tend to use communications to establish intimacy and build and maintain relationships. This is what I refer to as the Grace style of leadership. Men (the Grit style), on the other hand, tend to use communications to drive immediate, tangible outcomes, preserve status, and avoid failure.
The male leadership style is an exclusive club, even though it’s often not intentionally exclusive. And, while both women and men bring equal value to the workplace, equal does not mean they are the same. Many times, these differences cause misunderstandings in the workplace at best. At worst, I have actually seen a great leader lose her job because her boss, who was a man, thought she didn’t know how to make decisions because the way she approached decision-making was different from his own. This is what first sent me down the path to beginning a new gender dialogue that allows us to have meaningful conversations about how women lead differently than men. Only then will we understand the value both bring to the workplace.
As I mentioned above, calling Grace the more relationship-focused female style and Grit the status-conscious, immediate action male style of leadership provides us with a non-confrontational approach to talk about our differences. Bias training is largely focused on helping men understand what it’s like to be a woman. Do you think men will remember this in the heat of a challenging business situation? Probably not. And in fact, all the research shows bias training has largely been ineffective in changing behaviors in the workplace for exactly this reason. We all have both Grace and Grit within us. I, for instance, have a more Grit style approach, which at times can be abrasive. My team recently reminded me of this by asking if I had left Grace at home that day. Their question prompted me to think about my behaviors and adapt them for the situation. All great leaders have good awareness of their own style and the needs of others and have the ability to have productive dialogue around them.
ILM Survey: 1/2 of women doubted their job performance compared to less than 1/3 of men.
In many companies, women are not advancing. This is despite the extensive research showing that more women in leadership positions equals higher company profits and a more competitive organization. At each level of an organization, women dwindle in numbers, leading to a lack of gender balance on top leadership teams.
If women make up less than 25% of an applicant pool, they are more likely to be negatively evaluated.
Howard J. Morgan and Joelle K. Jay, PhD, of the Leadership Research Institute (LRI) are co-authors of THE NEW ADVANTAGE: How Women in Leadership Can Create Win-Wins for Their Companies and Themselves (Praeger / 2016). LRI is a global consulting firm specializing in leadership and organizational development. Morgan has worked with over 1,000 CEO and executive team members of the world’s largest organizations on improving corporate and executive performance. Jay is an executive coach and keynote speaker and specializes in the advancement of executive women.
The Unique Problems Women Face in Leaders
What are some of the problems women uniquely face in the workforce?
We have worked with some of the largest organizations in the world. Based on our experience, and several major reports, companies with the highest representation of women in senior management positions are shown to perform the best. Research reports that companies with more women:
Are more profitable (18-69%)
Are more competitive (25%)
Are more effective because they demographically reflect the market (83%).
In balanced leadership teams of men and women, women tend to bring fresh perspectives and ideas, talent and experience, and that leads to better decision-making.
The problem is despite all of those advantages, we found they are persistently underrepresented in senior levels of leadership. Women currently hold only 4.0% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, according to the Catalyst research organization Catalyst.
Research: Companies with women are up to 69% more profitable.
What are some of the advantages companies experience when more women are represented in leadership?
Companies that attract and develop executive women gain amazing benefits related to profitability, productivity and performance. Some areas include increased revenues, greater innovation, increased employee engagement, higher productivity, better financial performance, global competitive advantage, and stronger leadership.
Companies benefit from the increased financial performance associated with a balanced leadership team, beating their competition by up to a third.
Research: Companies with a balanced leadership team beat the competition by up to a third.
The women we’ve spoken with and worked with report a wide range of issues. Perhaps the biggest barrier is a lack of awareness on the part of their companies about what stops women from advancing and how to increase the number of women in senior level and executive leadership positions.
There are a number of obstacles that have prevented the integration of women into the highest levels of leadership. First, change takes time. Second, few role models exist for women at the top. Third, we are still learning about the barriers that prevent women from breaking into C-level leadership. Two of the biggest breakthroughs in recent research for the advancement of women to leadership positions are executive presence and sponsorship. These have only become prevalent topics of research in recent years. And in reality, until recently the business culture has evolved around a predominance of men as leaders, and characteristics associated with successful leadership are still aligned with more masculine traits.
“Women who want to succeed to higher levels of leadership have to take the lead.” –Morgan & Jay
Despite some of the statistics you cite about income and other inequalities, you have a strong optimism about “now” as a wonderful time for women. Why the optimism?
I’ve been working for women empowerment all of my professional life. When I went back to college, and then during my doctoral research, very few people were talking about women empowerment. I felt very lonely.
Now, everywhere I look, people are talking about empowering women: self-help books, networking and mentoring groups, even the media. And why not? Women buy 85% of goods and services; it’s time for our voices to be heard. And as women are getting better at working together, I see a movement in which we claim our power and help one another create a better world.
“When we do things even though we are afraid, we grow.” -@DrNancyOReilly
“Successful women pay a popularity penalty.” Would you explain that a bit more? What should a successful woman do?
When a woman is successful, she risks denigration by her competitors, the media and other women and men. Studies show the more successful a woman is, the less “likeable” she is perceived to be. Look at a Hillary Clinton, when she was the most popular woman in the world and running for president, she had to deal with comments about her dress, her hair, how old she looked. It constantly undermined her credibility. Lois Phillips, one of my Leading Women co-authors, describes how women can build their credibility at the beginning of a speech, which men rarely have to do. Their credibility is assumed just because they are at the podium.
“One woman can change anything; many women can change everything.” –Christine Karumba