The Glass Ceiling Is Real
For most of my life, I’ve been told that male attributes are better in business. Be assertive. Raise your hand. Lean in!
Well, these may work for many people, but those people are mostly men. Or women trying to act like men. Luckily for me, I’ve been around all sorts of successful people in my career, and many have been women—but the proportions are still way off. And over the years I’ve wondered why the heck it is still this way?
First of all, men and women are simply . . . different. This isn’t an equality question; it’s about differences. In an effort to even the playing field at the top of organizations, we have been taught that strong leaders take more risks, they plough forward, they speak up, they know when and how to be aggressive, they go faster and make big decisions quickly, they blast through, kick ass and are courageous.
What a load of bollocks that is.
The leadership competencies I look for are found elsewhere in the dictionary. They include words like collaboration, inspiration and innovation. They contain concepts like emotional intelligence, authenticity, vulnerability and empathy. Folks like Dr. Brené Brown have done a great job highlighting them extensively: “Trust comes from vulnerability,” she says, a statement that holds remarkable truth – but one that is not widely accepted as a standard of strength by society and certainly not for men.
When Tangerine publishes a posting for a new job, we include the “requirements” that we would like to see in a successful candidate. But not everyone sees those requirements the same way. Often, a man sees there are five key requirements and believes he possesses three of them, he goes for it. He feels confident to raise his hand and apply. A woman who possesses four of the five attributes is less likely to apply for the role. She’ll pass on the opportunity because she feels she lacks something, that she isn’t ready.
Having spoken to many women about this dynamic I think leaders fall short if they fail to understand it and acknowledge the consequences: that more men will apply for the role than women, and thus it is more likely a man will get the job even though there are more qualified women who could do the job at least as well. Sadly, men in leadership positions tend to favor those who are eager and raise their hand (just like they did). They simply are missing the boat.
I suspect there are many paradigms that were built in the time when only men led organizations. They are right in front of our noses, and yet we don’t see them. We have to change the system, see through these ways of doing things.
One solution could be to say, “Hey, ladies, step up! Raise your hand! Take what you deserve!” But this is the male way. If leaders truly want their businesses to be great, they need to understand both genders. They need to show interest in who they are, how they work and how they perceive the world. They need to create new, unbiased processes.
The truth is I don’t get this quite yet, and it upsets me. I want to be able to encourage my daughter as she grows into a leader in her own right and certainly teach my sons the same messages.
Luckily I work with wonderful women leaders who are great mentors on the subject. I also had the opportunity to spend some time with Arianna Huffington recently whose advice proved helpful. She told me men are more likely to feel they are entitled to “sit at the table” and many women do not feel the same.
She said, “Peter, be aware that this is sometimes happening and a little encouragement can be so powerful to ensure you are getting the benefit of all of the perspectives in the room.”