Much is written today about “closing the gap” between those aspiring, competent women looking for top management – from C-Suite to Boardroom – positions and those looking to recruit them. Recent research from Deloitte (1) championing “inclusive leadership” validates that paying attention to the diversity of your top team, while encouraging/nurturing different personalities, talents and styles to work together in a collaborative manner, is proving to have a positive impact on profit margin and the personal fulfillment of the team itself.
Much is written today about “closing the gap” between those aspiring, competent women looking for top management – from C-Suite to Boardroom – positions and those looking to recruit them. Recent research from Deloitte (1) championing “inclusive leadership” validates that paying attention to the diversity of your top team, while encouraging/nurturing different personalities, talents and styles to work together in a collaborative manner, is proving to have a positive impact on profit margin and the personal fulfilment of the team itself.
This current trend which reviews inclusive behavior patterns and traits does not specifically focus on gender differences in leadership. Further, it is not focusing on a 50/50 mix of women on boards. The Inclusive Leadership style of management does appear, however, to involve many feminine-linked management characteristics that provide some evidence that the nature of business has shifted, over the last 3 decades, towards what is referred to as feminine leadership (2) It also appears that we resist the foregoing facts because numbers show us that, top management in corporate America, the UK and Europe, is male-dominated by huge margins. The woman focused agenda is ever prominent in business circles and in journals from the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, and world business news, all calling for mandates across the globe. In the US, for example, California is the first state to legislate a mandate to have a minimum of one woman on Corporate Boards. Really? One woman on each board?
We have a long way to go as there is only 18% of corporate companies that have women on their boards across the US according to 2020 Campaign for Women on Boards (3) Across the business landscape – and LinkedIn – you will find numerous projects that have been created specifically to help women rise to the top level yet the numbers tell the true story.
ARE WE LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION FOR THE ‘GAP’ IN THE WRONG PLACES?
Women are key to desirable profit margins yet the doors to the top remain closed to Men Only in so many businesses. Research from Catalyst found that Fortune 500 companies with the highest percentages of female directors produced an average 66% higher ROI than those with the least. What is the missing piece that we need to bridge this gap, finally proving that men and women working together is the definitive win-win concept capable of making a distinguishable difference?
In our ongoing research across the US and Canada, we discovered respondent’s interest spiked regarding placing women on Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards. In questioning about the subject of men and women working together across management and the employee base in general, the primary concern was there seemed no easy solution possible. More specifically, they responded “if there was – what might it look like and what the result might be?” The larger question was; “how could the imbalance – particularly in the top echelons of business, where the numbers point to a closed door – be shifted?”
It becomes evident from our recent conversations with regional business leaders, that THE ELEPHANT AND THE ROPE metaphor is still alive and well in corporate America. In this instance, the Elephant in the Room is the conversation surrounding the preceding issues – and those that arise from the full diversity agenda – that, in simple terms, is just NOT being discussed. For example, there are 30 million Latino women who live and work in the US, only 40 of these women sitting on Fortune 500 Companies boards in 2018.
Sooner or later those who have held the elephant captive are going to have to address the diversity situation realistically. As we know, the average size elephant would have little problem breaking the rope and/or removing the stake to which the rope is tethered (see Postscript). We’re willing to predict that the elephant … the conversation that has yet to happen in earnest … will sooner rather than later, unshackle itself and do whatever it must to done to correct the injustice that has kept it prisoner for many decades. Can anybody unlock that long bolted door with the assurance that when they finally welcome
and encourage a balanced male/female diverse working culture and that everything will be magically transformed? The short and most obvious answer is a resounding NO.
However, it must start somewhere. It’s time to talk.
Rather than trying to fix women to the specifications of the average top-level manager, we need to engage both parties in a values-based, win-win conversation that is inclusive of differences beyond those that are obviously just biological. Consideration must include feelings, sensitivities, emotions and lifestyle. If we keep fixing the women to enter the hallowed ground of the male boardroom, we are not giving them the freedom to be greater than who they are, and we’re limiting men who might embrace their contributions, skills and talents with a new and more inclusive perspective.
THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF TALENTED WOMEN, YET THE DOORS REMAIN CLOSED
More and more women have been entering the workplace circa the 1950s onwards. As a matter of fact, that influx has been increasing rapidly since 2000 largely due to the digital freedom that technology has offered. There is no shortage of formidable female talent looking to fill any openings in top management. There is an abundance of exceptional women in a wide range of sectors, especially finance, tech and health, who seek new and exciting challenges and opportunities. It doesn’t take a genius to see that we all live in turbulent and changing times. The challenge for women has always been to make sense of the corporate world and to fashion their own identities through the sharing and passing on of stories. To date, the stories of women – stories of women and stories shared among women – have often been authored by men. This has not just shaped women’s careers, it has also shaped their lives.
The emotional, inclusive, cultural, narrative is the culture of today. The #MeToo influence, the growth of women professionals competent to run major corporations, the expansion of female entrepreneurs in addition to male entrepreneurs, and the continuing digital revolution, has changed business and transformed the narrative language between men and women.
SHIFTING MINDSETS AND PROFITS FROM THE TOP
We need to shift the cultural mindset about men and women at the top if we are to facilitate collaborative inclusive leadership which respects differences in lifestyle and cyclical needs related to gender behavior. To ensure a smooth transition from history to the future in a side-by-side (male and female), interconnected approach with an inclusive language and relationship harmony, we must engage all parties in an individual/group discovery that releases the energy of the whole. Operating from a new baseline, it becomes easier to converse and collaborate inclusively … and isn’t that the goal?
CAN WE IMAGINE ENGAGEMENT WITH OPEN DOORS TO ALL PARTIES?
Imagine that Men are BEARS – tough, strong, fixed on the task at hand and capable yet grounded in the principles of profit and measurement. Women are BIRDS – colorful, with a range of shapes, flying abilities and nurturing/emotional dexterity that fixes the problems through assessment, quick thinking, engaging chatter and caring
relationships. The two species – Animals and Aves – partner well – IF they understand and honor each other’s different core drivers, contributions and values. IF they are willing to shift the narrative to a higher awareness of those baseline and personal differences. The goal is a collaborative win for all …through a conversation language that bridges the gap…combining business, life, health and wealth.
THERE’S A SOLUTION WITH A NEW MAP FOR COLLABORATION WITH GENDER DYNAMICS©
Dr Pauline Crawford, CEO Corporate Heart Int, UK has 30 years of leadership and gender diversity expertise to deliver a Top-Level Engagement Intervention called Working Together.
This opens the door to address the conversation not yet had (Elephant in the Room) to provide a 360 Degree Gender Dynamics© Map for men and women to use that shares the new language required for collaboration and bridges the gap to seed and grow performance-related results from men and women together and separately.
1. Deloitte “Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders”
2. Forbes “Are feminine leaderships traits the future of business?”
3. 2020 Campaign for Women on Boards
FOOTNOTE STORY The Elephant and The Rope
Paulo Coelho “the elephant in the room”
This is the procedure adopted by circus trainers to ensure that elephants never rebel – and I suspect that it is also what happens with a lot of people. When still a baby, the elephant is tethered by a very thick rope to a stake firmly hammered into the ground. The elephant tries several times to get free, but it lacks the strength to do so.
After a year, the stake and the rope are still strong enough to keep a small elephant tethered, although it continues to try, unsuccessfully, to get free. At this point, the animal realizes that the rope will always be too strong and so it gives up. When it reaches adulthood, the elephant can still remember how, for a long time, it had wasted its energies trying to escape captivity. At this stage, the trainer can tether the elephant with a slender thread tied to a broom handle, and the elephant will make no attempt to escape to freedom.