De-constructing Gender Woes

The boys club is officially still alive. So said a colleague of mine, who introduced the topic in the form of comedy. This, after sharing a story about the roles of men and women in corporate America and I dare say, roles that are predicated on one’s gender. As much as the course of history has demonstrated examples of great strides made by women, from the experiences shared, there are examples of biases towards the traditionally labeled “weaker sex”.

As the story developed, the lens were also turned on how women at the executive level, seem to find the need to adopt male characteristics, in hope of being taken seriously. As the debate went on, I began to develop in my mind, my next piece.

There is no doubt that men and women view their environment through different lens. They each hold to biases which are formed in part from our cultural persuasion. In the western part of the  world, many women enjoy the freedom to make decisions that impact their lives. We listen to news coming from the East and I am sure at one point or another, we feel sympathetic to their situation.

As different as our worlds are, it appears that with our definition of freedom, there is dissatisfaction when it comes to being strategic partners at every level of the management structure, including the executive table. The blame has been cast at the feet of the good ole boys club.

Now, here is my take, having been exposed to themes that have explored culture and conflict, negotiation, worldviews as well as gender and society. We will always have this struggle between genders, mainly because the perceptions and definitions held by each has not matured. With excellent examples of women who have risen to the top of Fortune 500 companies, there are also horrific examples of the nasty politics that force many to leave.

As the informal group spoke, one member indicated she was aware of a female executive who held no authority. The view from the ground was she had no power, as her voice at the table was neutralized by the coercive power of the CEO. They lamented that this female had the expertise and in informal settings, was able to command attention because of her novel ideas that could improve the business. Yet when the time came to be strategically involved, she became impotent. How sad for businesses is my only remark.

It would appear that women still have to prove their mettle. There is nothing wrong with that. If the proof is required, then stand up and be counted. I have always held the belief that for me to be true to myself, I should be able to speak up and provide alternative solutions because of my expertise. Sitting at the executive level and remaining silent does not earn respect. You may be unpopular because you dare to challenge the status quo but the reality is, the organization needs to be productive. Goals must be met.

With respect to the comment that women adopt male attributes/characteristics, it can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Females who stand their ground, who dare to speak and champion beneficial causes, who are not indecisive will be considered “male”. This is societies influence. By tradition and transfer of cultural norms, the male is the analytical powerhouse, whilst the female is the nurturer, caregiver. These roles have since merged, for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to, simple economics. In an environment with increasing uncertainties, traditional jobs now attract both gender.

Here is the deal. Stop howling about the glass-ceiling. It has cracked and of course women and men who are sympathetic to the cause are excited about the emerging trends. Review your thinking about business and the “tokenism” philosophy. It is hard work that will get you noticed. This is not a story about men vs. women. This is a story about partnership in the organization and how to ensure that each gender brings the requisite talent to the table to maintain that competitive edge.

If you are a female at the executive level, this is my simple advice. Learn as much from the CEO who many call the devil reincarnate. Take note of the desirable traits that have allowed him/her to succeed. Speak up and be action oriented. You have an audience all around you, from the floor to the ceiling. You are not just on show for them, but you are also breaking the pattern of being an apologist because of your gender.

Lastly, why not step out into the world of an entrepreneur. Champion your dreams, build an authentic enterprise fueled by the values and attitudes that are missing from the corporate world today. Daunting….I know that feeling, as I am currently creating my own vision. But it can be done.

So the next time you look at the cracked glass ceiling, don’t blame the ole boys club. Learn from them and grow your talent. You definitely won’t regret it.

More anon…

Copyright 2013 Suzette Henry Campbell


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