A few years ago, at an event I attended on “Women in the Workplace” the male CEO of a blue-chip company made the joke: “Wouldn’t it just be easier if women were more like men?” His comment was met with a few polite laughs, but his attempt at humour gave away his own discomfort with the evolving demands of senior leaders. Sure, we might answer, it would probably be easier for him and a few others, if women were indeed more like men. And in fact, much of the advice around ‘getting to the top’ has resulted in many women feeling they have to adopt a masculine persona to succeed. These women may not only feel inauthentic compared to who they were when they started their career, but acting as mini-men makes them dubious role models for both junior women and men who want to see a less ‘alpha’ way of doing leadership.
If the message is that you have to ultimately change who you are to get to the top – then how attractive is that senior position actually going to be? The greater loss if ‘women are more like men’ is that we lose out on the great skills women bring to the workplace. McKinsey research points out women are statistically better performers when it comes to three key behaviours: People Development, Clarity around Expectations and Rewards and Role Modelling. This is vital stuff! In fact, when they looked at the 9 behaviours that drive business success, men only outpaced women on two of the nine criteria: individualistic decision-making and control and corrective action.
It is far better for women to be effective as women – being authentic to who they are as individuals and the diversity that brings to decision making. Individuals thrive being authentic because they rely on inherent skills, not an adopted persona put on for work. Acting with integrity to raise the status of those around you without diminishing your own worth is key. Performance improves because impact improves. Interestingly, the future workplace favours many of the skills professional women already have in abundance, such as integrity, ability to think laterally and collaborative thinking. And the best bit? Using these strengths is not just a way for working woman to tap into these ‘superpowers’ – it’s fantastic for those around them! Colleagues love it because they are suddenly working with someone they can trust and who validates their own strengths. Clients adore it because acting with authenticity means they are treated with respect and understanding, even within commercial parameters and constraints. Managers love it because communication flows much more easily and employee development suddenly becomes a positive experience for all.
If this female-friendly way of working – a way that doesn’t require women to apologise for their perceived faults and frailties sounds good to you, then join Female Breadwinners on May 10 as we pair with Deborah Frances-White and Dr. Anne Moir at Leicester Square Theatre to unleash the ‘superpower’ revolution. To reserve places for yourself, colleagues and clients, visit the New Girls Network website.