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.
How do you know if you’re called to be an entrepreneur?
In choosing entrepreneurship, you are required to take on risk, barriers, financial strain, and uncertainty in virtually every area of life – from the possibility of failure, to the unknown of the size of success if you make it, to what your career will look like as you navigate the journey. In a nutshell, it’s often bring-ya-to-your-knees work and is not sexy, contrary to what the media may lead you to believe. Yes, there is potential upside in entrepreneurship, but who would logically sign on for the guaranteed difficulties if not called?
So how do you know if you are called? One of the beauties of entrepreneurship is that there is no standard or template, so I think most of our callings are as unique as a fingerprint. However, I do believe we have a set of common ideals and a way of seeing the world that builds a foundation common to most entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is very hot and trendy today, but it is not a path that will be successful or enjoyable if it is not where your best talents live. I had a thriving corporate career prior to taking the leap into entrepreneurship, with the status and ego that accompany the corporate position. The leap into entrepreneurship was very humbling, yet I couldn’t have been more in my element and comfortable in my own skin – I knew it was where I belonged. Here’s my list to help you know if you are being called, or not.
How to Know if You Have the Call
You might be called to entrepreneurship if…
You are going to a new endeavor, not running from your current situation.
You have an idea that will create value.
You have an idea that will grow and potentially create wealth.
You believe your authentic way of working, building or delivering is ahead of its time and of greater value than what is currently available on the market.
You feel being a Jack or Jill of All Trades is a valuable skill, and you enjoy tackling new responsibilities with which you have no experience.
You think broadly and can sew all aspects of a business together to create overarching success.
You have smart but blind optimism in the long-term potential of your idea – enough to thrive in the lean years.
You are excited about working harder than you have ever worked, even if it means being without a paycheck (for a while).
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.
For those who aren’t up to date on the latest research, tell us why gender balance is good for organizations. What’s the case for gender diversity?
Hardwiring in the brain is different for men and women. The physical differences are associated with natural tendencies in thinking, communicating, and problem solving that are all needed in business. Men and women demonstrate these traits in varying degrees. Organizations that have traits from both genders will get the best questioning, debate, and idea generation resulting in healthier strategies and increased performance over those who don’t. Those are the organizations that will create the best products and services for their customers.
Fact: Public companies with more than 1 woman on the Board have higher returns.
I don’t believe people resist it. I believe leaders don’t know what to do to change it. That’s the biggest reason I wrote the book – to provide some actionable advice as to what leaders can do to effect change. Others have brought awareness and that’s a good first step. Now we need to start doing the things that will lead to more gender diversity in leadership positions.
Study: Companies with no gender balance on the board have lower market capitalization.
You say that you wrote the book mainly for men in power because they can change the ratio. And then you say some “get it” and some “think about it.” What’s the difference?
I wrote the book mainly for people in positions of power – anyone who is in a senior leadership role can effect change faster. At this time, the vast majority of those people are men. Of the male leaders I interviewed, I found that there are two main groups: those who “get it” and have been taking steps for several years to have more women in leadership, and those who are “thinking about it” – that is, they acknowledge that women are important to their business but are struggling to find ways to have more of them in senior leadership. The biggest difference between these two groups of leaders is that those who have greater gender balance in their organizations have taken some very deliberate steps to get them there. They take more time to seek candidates and they reach outside their known network to find female candidates. They tend to take more risks on up-and-coming talent within their organizations as well.
Reasons Companies Fail to Keep Women
It’s not only recruiting but also retention that is important to changing the ratio. What are some of the reasons organizations fail to keep women?
Some organizations still refuse to implement the flexibility it takes to keep female talent. They still view creating flexibility as making exceptions rather than viewing it as a competitive advantage. They are busy counting hours instead of measuring results. Those that continue to think that way will fall behind in the war for the best talent.
What’s unconscious gender bias and how do you recognize and deal with it?
Unconscious gender bias is continuing to hire people who are just like us (male or female) and not even thinking about the ramifications of doing so. Little to no thought is being given to examining the gender balance of the team or organization when this continues to happen. The only way for it to change is for the top leader to set the tone and lead by example. Everyone follows the lead of the CEO or President, which in itself is far more important than implementing awareness initiatives.