McKinsey has concluded that it will take 25 years to reach “gender parity” at the senior VP level and more than 100 years to reach parity in the C-suite. Is “parity” realistic and attainable even in a century? I don’t think so. Even if we could magically eliminate all unconscious gender bias, other factors would make parity unlikely. There are key reasons other than bias – like free choice. I will continue to help eliminate bias so choice is truly free.
The numbers and graphs in the report by Lean In and McKinsey & Company, Women in the Workplace 2015, support some beliefs, and challenge some myths, about why women remain underrepresented at the executive level of American business. What about gender bias? The report concludes that women are more likely than men to perceive gender bias. Of course they do! One of the recommendations of the study is training to “interrupt gender bias,” including to assure men can see and understand the challenges women encounter.
Are obstacles for women in the workplace likely to disappear when Millennials run the world? In our workshops, we address the unconscious “mind-sets” that still affect women’s ability to reach their potential. We are often asked if these issues are disappearing in the younger generations in today’s workforce. Do young people truly have a less “gendered” view of leadership qualities? Will their images of leadership and success be less predictably masculine? Will gender diverse leadership be the norm?
Rich and I delivered a well-received workshop at the third annual WILD Summit (Women Inspiring Leadership Development from the Women’s Council of the Leeds School of Business at CU). We framed as choice (the conference theme) the ability to value and leverage both masculine and feminine strengths. We demonstrated that being able to choose which is most effective in a particular situation is an important career skill. Appreciating both approaches makes one a better and more inclusive leader; the result is broader team engagement, leading to better results. We tackled the subject of how masculine-feminine differences run up against unconscious biases or mindsets, creating obstacles for women in business – and, therefore, gender diversity.
Are there different or more difficult challenges in the area of business development for women vs. men? Women in general express less confidence and have a harder time “tooting their own horn” or selling themselves. In building relationships with male prospects, women have to choose a social setting that is comfortable for both – and does not look like a “date” or “come on.” Women need to stretch their boundaries and learn to enjoy “male” sports – like golf; that is where business is developed! There may be leftovers of old ways of thinking about women. Male prospects may have different or lower cultural expectations about women.