When my mother died 5 years ago, it fell to me to do her Eulogy. I spoke about her and her love and devotion to our family as well as her career. My mother did well: she was promoted to management in spite of the fact that she was in her late forties and did not have a high school diploma. She was a first level manager but the money was good enough that my father could quit 2 of his three jobs and we began to live more comfortably. She retired with a nice pension at 65. In spite of her successes, one of her many assignments taught me my best lesson: It’s different for a woman.
Towards the end of her career, she was appointed to a new position as public office manager, a face to the customer if you will. It was a lateral position for her. Although the man who she was replacing was a full level higher than her she did not get a promotion. Additionally, she was handed a second office to manage. Bottom line: one woman replaced two higher paid men to do double the work for the same pay she was earning before. This clearly demonstrated that when it is determined that a woman can do a job, it loses value. The system is rigged to produce different outcomes for different people. Admittedly historical perspective is relevant in that while not consciously or with intent the work system was built by men for the benefit of men. We’ve just been invited to participate at our own initiative and insistence. Equality? Sure! Equal Access? Not really. We are still earning less than men and traditionally defined women's work is valued less then the work traditionally done by men.
Whether you “lean in” or “know your value” women must appreciate that the work system is different for them in all positions: workers, managers and leaders. The system is being pushed beyond it resiliency now and this is a good thing. The feminine sensibility is needed to shift the focus away from the “next big thing” to a marriage of vision and continuous improvement to the status quo – a feminine strength. Here are some steps you can take to leverage feminine action for the best possible outcome:
• Bone up on your Emotional Intelligence. Feminine emotions are valuable and must not be minimized or hidden, however,
• Using a framework is beneficial in ensuring a beneficial outcome.
• Focus on
o Self - Awareness by recognizing our emotions
o Self - Impact by channeling those emotions into actions
o Social Awareness leveraging the ability to relate and empathize, and
o Social Skills in terms of our ability to influence and communicate
• Listen to your male counterparts and understand how they process information and reframe your ideas so that they “get it”. Getting co-workers to appreciate your ideas and methods by highlighting what’s in it for them or how it aligns with their objectives is a win-win, and
• Offer alternatives to conference and business outings that are of interest to your feminine sensibilities. Ask yourself how activities will work to build cohesive teams, align with the work and are stimulating for all.
• When you see discrepancies in job titles that assume more value for men, call it out. It’s your duty and responsibility to break through this built in bias.
While the reference to my Mother's experience happened many years ago, let me say that a woman very close to me was recently treated similarly: her company laid off a man who's salary exceeded her's by a significant amount. The company transferred the work to her in addition to her existing workload. No increase in pay was provided. Women are making less than men in all kinds of situations. This fact should be recognized and internalized at all points during our careers so that we can evolve the status of woman in the workforce and instill feminine values to all level of work.
I often draw references to politics noting that this is a leadership/business blog and not a political one. However, given the current focus on feminine movements and leadership in the media you can’t help but draw comparisons between business and politics. Take the time to see the different sensibilities and reactions relative to the male and female candidates. It is a great learning experience if you can stand the unsettling nature of the discussion.
At Real Leadership Associates I use business coaching to help leaders establish their best approach for optimal results. The blend of Leadership, i.e., vision, change, innovation and management, i.e., continuous evaluation and improvement to the status quo, is a feminine strength. I’m looking forward to discussing this more in my May blog bit. Until then, if I can be of help contact Beth
for more information.
For me, spring is the best time of year as it represents the hope of rebirth and the promise of a great year ahead. Have a happy spring and enjoy the spring holidays!