Competitiveness, ruthlessness and assertiveness, which are typically viewed as masculine, have driven the business world pretty much since the beginning.
As women have moved into the realms of management more, it has become clear that women offer a different perspective and a way of working with and managing people that can produce the same successful outcomes or better.
Recent research though, backs up the idea that many, men and women alike, still feel those male-associated qualities are necessary for effective leadership, over traditionally feminine qualities like patience, empathy and communality. What I like to call the F Factor (Feeling in MBTI world)
To break through this way of thinking, which has been entrenched in us over time, we have to learn what it actually means to embrace diversity in leadership. To embrace something means to wholly and enthusiastically support it, not to tick boxes. We need to create an environment where we work together not as opposites, and where women and their skills are not merely tolerated but actually valued on their merit, not simply because a quota is being met or a policy being followed.
By keeping women out of the highest ranks of business, we’re potentially losing out on 50 percent of the potential for new ideas that always comes along with increasing the diversity of a group. Different backgrounds and perspectives encourage more creativity and innovation, and there are loads of studies out there to support that. So why wouldn’t we want to seek that out?
The shift that has to come from the top, and from inside us all, and it is not going to happen without some resistance
When people of different backgrounds, whether it’s gender, race, sexuality or any other, come together, it can be uncomfortable. There’s mistrust and a lack of engagement. Naturally we tend to surround ourselves with people just like us, and it’s not necessarily a conscious reaction, which is what makes it difficult to pinpoint and “fix.”
Breaking through that unconscious bias and the negative perceptions it causes requires time above all; people need time to develop trust with those who are different from them, and there can be clashes at the start. But given the time and space to work through those issues, those groups can start turning out work that makes a competitive difference.
This isn’t about tick boxing and a training course to fix this. This is about living and breathing diversity in your business which can be a HUGE culture shift for some. So get your teams to own it. Workshops, e-learning, training and changing the way you recruit, the way you do business Let people see, first hand, how inclusion can speed along benefits for all.
By getting to the heart of why people think the way they do, with the understanding that unconscious biases are the result of hundreds of years of evolution, they can understand it’s not about being a bad person.
It’s dangerous to assume that promoting women harms men. Leadership traits like confidence and assertiveness are not just traits evident in men, just as leadership traits like compassion and empathy are not only present in women. All of these personality traits play a role in the effective leadership of a business, and it’s time we stop putting people in boxes and let all of those strengths, complement each other, regardless of who is displaying them.
We need to make space for people to rise through the ranks without changing who they are, and further, learn to embrace them for their uniqueness and the value that brings. Working as a diverse but unified team just imagine what we could accomplish.