Recently About.com interviewed executive and leadership coach John M McKee about difficulties faced by women in corporate life for their Women in Business section. Having hired, promoted, fired and laid off thousands of people during his career, John has some strong feelings about this subject.
"In your book, 21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot, you address gender bias at work. While you admit men may not truly appreciate the unique challenges business women face your book seeks to help women better understand the male corporate culture. But to foster diversity and inclusion shouldn’t we be better educating the men, too? How can more women get more involved in shaping change within their own business environment?"
And so began a recent interview I did with About.com's "Women in Business" columnist and editor. (There's a link to the whole discussion at the bottom of this blog if you want to read it.) She wanted to talk to me about some of the reasons that women remain under-represented at the very senior levels in most organizations. In the US, less than 8% of the top jobs in large public organizations are held by women. It's a bit better in many other countries; but even there the percentage isn't equal.
I hear daily from clients, (disclosure: most of my clients are women,) about how it remains tough to move up the ladder. And, when I investigate, it's clear that most companies still have a strong male-centric bias. That perpetuates the problem of course.
Across the industrial spectrum, in organizations both small and large, we need more women leaders. The evidence is clear that women CEOs usually deliver better numbers than their male counterparts regardless of sector. And, as importantly, senior teams with greater diversity usually develop more creative approaches to challenges faced by the company. We need more creativity in these times.
For those readers who are light on estrogen as a result of your gender, here are 3 things from my interview that you should know:1. Men and women really do communicate differently. Simply put, women talk to think and men think to talk. I think everyone can benefit from reading “The Female Brain” by Dr. Louanne Brizendine because it brings to the forefront the role anatomy plays in how differently women think and process information. I'll caution you beforehand that the blurb on the cover says that men may get brain envy after reading it. It's a fair comment. 2. Women are instinctively more egalitarian in their management style and men are more hierarchical. The guys need to learn and adopt this style in today’s environments where one’s title is less important than one’s contribution.
Resist learning and you do so at your own peril, men: Most new organizations are being started by women. More ladies than guys are graduating college. If for no other reason than your own career, get to understand the style differences. And then try them out for yourself. Everyone needs more arrows in their management quivers.3. A woman’s life is not as simple as career and family. The research is clear that women still handle the majority of the workload on the home front – and remember, running the household was once considered to be a full time job. The impact children have on a woman’s career is very different than her male counterparts.
The US is far behind most western countries on this issue. Policies and mindsets need to be changed to allow women the opportunity to have children without penalties to their careers or else we will continue to see highly talented individuals leaving.