I just think it is suicidal that we exclude some of our best talent from Leadership roles. The glass ceiling, a metaphor that I hate, behaves in a way that allows the odd woman to smash through it. Then it re-seals itself immediately, allowing no others to get through. Then life goes on as before, with some of our best talent huddled underneath it, being ignored. Despite over 40 years of legislation demanding equality in the workplace, men still out-earn women by close to £500,000 over the course of their career, and the percentage of females in ‘top’ roles clearly demonstrates a gaping chasm.
Because they are women and not men. Why, for pity sake, is there such a perverse bias against such great talent? How in anyone’s mind does that make sense? Well maybe in the small minded, bigoted Mindset of some men, who seem to think “women are home-makers but men lead.” For some, this is an appropriate way of managing great talent. These are usually the very same men who use bluster, politicking and positioning to get themselves noticed and promoted, all the while expecting modesty and humility from female peers. Think of Boris Johnson; Donald Trump; Vladimir Putin; as three examples.
I recently noted a front cover that said...
“Since the human race began, women have delivered for society. It is time now for the world to deliver for women”
…No I say!!! It’s time the world understands that women are leaders, and to allow them to flourish rather than label them as powerless individuals who need help from a powerful man. Yes it’s great to see that some women are not waiting for anyone to deliver and are grabbing the few opportunities there are, despite the patronising quotas. We are also beginning to see a few refreshing realities:
‘Women leadership’ being normalised rather than being considered an abnormal event (not nearly quickly enough though)
Policies and Mindsets of people in power, shifting towards providing greater and swifter equal access to opportunities (yet still the people in power tend to be men)
More role models that are hugely important to aspiring woman leaders (which is part of the solution, not the solution)
But I say all of this is not enough! Let’s not pretend that some of these refreshing realities are nearly good enough, nor that the good old boys allowing a few more ‘skirt suits’ in the palaces of Leadership will really deliver the change that the world so very badly needs. That would be arrogant twaddle, based on cod data, with lazy stereotypes and too many assumptions. It would be totally ludicrous to suggest (as many have done before) that if we were to temper the big, bad boy's world of business with a few more fragrant females, that these role models would then be the catalyst for the basement of real talent to rise to the top. This "trickle-down" feminism of giving women more power at the top of the socio-economic pile will not necessarily increase the power of women, nor will it increase the opportunity for women at the bottom of the heap, those under that “glass ceiling”.
We need a New Mindset for a New World. We should note that this should not be a Mindset that creates a movement of the powerless for the powerless, who then need an alliance with the powerful to survive. No, this is a Mindset shift that recognises talent for what it is…wisdom, capacity, capability, energy etc. Women are a great untapped resource. There is so much work to be done to ensure that this is not about ‘Women in Leadership’ but about great Leadership. While attitudes may be changing among younger men, recent studies show that when it comes to having children, millennial couples (born between 1980 and the early 2000s) who assumed their careers would be equal, tend to slip into traditional roles.
For women to advance (and it is largely women who assume the role as primary carer in family life) they require a new Mindset of business, society and government that reshapes everything from workplace design to leadership styles. When you consider that based on the current climate, gender inequality in the workplace will outlive our own and perhaps even our children’s lives, yes it does paint a bleak picture, but there are some grounds for optimism.
In our programmes #hashtagLeadership© we help a diverse population understand that the speed of change will never be this slow again, and the current leadership model is unable to cope with new problems or the relentless speed in which new problems arise. We help those people understand that we cannot move forward with solutions that are based on the same thinking that created our current challenges. We encourage leaders to face their own ‘dark side’ and their biases to examine closely how they react and behave, because our new digital world needs different thinking, different behaviour and different reactions.
We challenge them to look at all the talent and tools available because the greatest creativity comes from the greatest diversity, which is built upon a movement of inclusiveness at all levels of the organisation. We take them back to the future to help finish the revolution…a revolution that embraces innovation and entrepreneurship as a critical step in the journey to success. We teach them that in order to capitalise on this Mindset, you need to start by identifying and positively recognising the women in the workforce who are the innovators, role models and consumers of the future leaders. You then need to give them the opportunities to break “the glass ceiling” which will allow them the freedom to finish the revolution - for all our sakes!
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