“We give them”​ – have you heard those words?


Really, how serious is Australian industry about incorporating more women in their leadership ranks?  I have to wonder why we are moving so slowly on rectifying the problem, and perhaps woman and men don’t see the same problem?

I think for women it is about equal opportunity and the (often) lack of flexibility that many workplaces offer them during their child bearing or elder caring years.  I think it is also about the lack of ability to be at the high level decision making tables, where the real deals are done and where budgets are negotiated and incorporated into strategic plans.  I so often hear women say to me that they ‘have to ask’ for the budget to run a fairly low cost intervention or activity that supports gender diversity. I am also dismayed because I know that whilst some organisations deny this funding for gender diversity, they at the same time spend a similar amount of money on visits to corporate sports boxes or golf days. It’s really a question of priority and value.  So really, don’t we need to ask ourselves “how important is this gender diversity stuff to Australian business”

Whilst doing my Diversity Program Reviews (using the DPRF™cultural diagnostic), in organisations, I often hear well-meaning explanations from people who can’t understand why they continue to have a gender balance issue…and its usually a man, but not always. In extreme cases, these explanations have become well-crafted excuses that are actively preventing progressing, and in some cases, are creating new (and alarming) barriers to women’s progression.  One of the most common phrases starts with these three words; “We give them”, said with sincerity and often tinged with a little confusion.

Think about the words – WE…..GIVE….THEM.  Now think about those words separately and carefully.  Firstly

Who is WE?

In my experience the ‘we’ is generally the Board, Senior Management, or a Senior HR Professional. Usually this group is largely male, or perhaps a senior female manager who has ‘made it’ on their own terms by ‘putting in the hard yards’. Yes I hear you groaning, and yes this is not always the case, but it is quiet often what I find.   This language is powerful and by using ‘We’ and ‘Them’, the groups are separated with senior management unconsciously, often male, distancing itself, the ‘we’ from the problem that ‘them’, their female staff – can experience. This is not just about management and employee, it is a clear delineation between what the organisation hierarchy see’s as the way it should be and what is. There is another way of saying the same thing that does not differentiate between ‘us and them’, for example;

“The Company provides all our employees access to mentoring programs because we recognise that in order to support our people to achieve their potential, we need to support their growth.  However for some reason, we are not seeing the same return when mentoring women in our organisation”

Hmmm, those pesky ‘them’s’ – they are just not fitting into our expectations. No doubt because the expectation of management has a view of what the gender makeup should be and has a blinkered view of what life is actually like for humans that have families or a life outside of work.

GIVE

This is an interesting word because very few people give without some expectation of receiving something in return.  There seems to be strings attached to this giving, and of course this makes sense in business where money has been spent because of course there is an expectation of return on investment.  They way that this is often said to me is almost with exasperation that this group of WE’s is continually ‘giving’ but the women are still not changing.  Changing into what?  It seems that the changing that is expected is that they become like the organisations view of what a female employee looks like.  Of course there is no standard view, but there is a stereotypical or gendered view of what a female employee looks and behaves like.  There is lots of research on this already so I won’t go into to that in this post, suffice to say, that I do find instances where organisations are actively hiring women who fit a certain stereotype.  I also find that many organisations spend between $30,000 and $50,000 on their gender diversity initiatives with the first amount used to set up the Diversity Council.  Then the usual mentoring programs are set up, women’s forums might be implemented, leadership training for ‘high achievers’ (who often look like the ‘we’s) may be funded, and sponsors allocated to progress the ‘high potential women’ identified by the organisation. So…now the we’s can have some of ‘them’ that are behaving just as the ‘we’s’ expect. After all ‘we’ have given them stuff to make them achieve haven’t we?

AND THEM

Those that are not like us, those women…..that want to be recognised for the individual that they are. Unfortunately in my experience doing these #DiversityCapability Assessments, the ‘we’s’ really think that they are doing something wonderful by giving women many of the same things they wouldn’t think twice about if a man asked. Makes you think doesn’t it? These are actual real examples not from the 1970’s but as little as 3 years ago….

For more information about the DPRF, diversity or organisational activism, contact me at susanne.moore@ambidio.com.au

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Is this simple Gender Diversity formula holding your organisation back?


Quote by Susanne Moore (2017)

 

For the mathematically minded, a Gender Economics formula. When many organisations talk about Diversity or Gender Diversity, they tend to go into a circular state. This is from one of my recent talks about GE highlighting the formula – Diversity (seems to) equal (discussions about) Flexibility (which then go into discussions) that equal Women (then we think women) so equals Flexibility, then it equals Diversity (discussions) and here we are again with Diversity equalling discussions about Women. Of course the discussion should be about way more than that, but this simple formula is one of the things that I think is holding our organisations back from realising actual performance improvement by leveraging diversity.

Gender Discrimination still rife in Australian Companies


This article by WENLEI MA news.com.au  28 August 2014, talks about the experiences of many pregnant employees who, once they are pregnant are ‘frozen out’ of general office day to day activities.  Sometimes this is by just one person, in some cases it is that person’s manager and in some cases it is a freezing out by a number of people.  What generally happens in that these women feel awful during one of the happiest times of their lives. Sadly, many of the women referred to in this article are high achievers who went through such an appalling experience whilst pregnant at work that they no longer wanted to return to the workplace.

So two things struck me about this article;

Firstly, it seems that this type of behaviour is common and is a tactic used by managers to either ‘get rid’ of the woman involved or to send her a message that they are displeased.  They think that they have been inconvenienced by the potential time off required for that employee to have the baby.

Secondly, the issue of how this treatment affects the women is also interesting.  This is most concerning and it is something that I have certainly seen before and not just with pregnant women.  I have also experienced this behaviour from a male boss when I had challenged him on my renumeration package.  Originally it was agreed that it would be increased in the first three months of employment and it was not tied to performance, but when the time rolled around he conveniently ‘forgot’ to speak to me about it.  This meant that I had to tackle him on the subject, but instead of him just working through it with me or perhaps instigating a performance review, he decided to take offence that I had the gaul to ask for what was agreed and proceeded to stop speaking to me!!  Yes you heard right.  My manager decided that he would stop speaking to me and try to ignore me as much as possible and at the time I was a senior manager with most of the staff reporting to me.  Can you believe it!  Well I can because since then I have heard a number of women tell me that same sort of story about their experience with their boss or organisation.  Often these women were, like me asking for what they were entitled to, others had disagreed or challenged their male manager and were now facing retribution for doing so.  Strangely much of this behaviour is readily accepted in men but seen as ‘bossy’ or ‘aggressive’ in women.  Why?  because we are not behaving in the way that these men expect us to.

Unlike many women, I stuck it out and made a point of speaking to my manager and crashing through the wall of silence and the associated bad feelings that being shut out gives you.  Unfortunately many, if not most women don’t.  They leave the workplace preferring to create their own consulting companies or similar and we lose them from the corporate world all together.  Again, sadly many of the men that I have spoken to about this issue tell me that ‘clearly they (the women) were not cut out for it (the work) in the first place’.  This is the legacy that we are leaving by ‘opting out’.  Some of us need to remain and tuff it out if we are to ever see a change because the exodus of women often just demonstrates to male managers that women are just not committed and likely to leave at the first sign that things are getting uncomfortable.  Of course in a ‘mans world’, toughness, grit and determination agains the odds is seen as something to be respected and admired, and yes their experiences are invariably different, but no more important than what we expect many female managers to go through in the face of discrimination that can boarder on hostility and persecution.

Women don’t leave the corporate environment because it is too tough, they leave because they just don’t see the point in sticking around in toxic environments and being treated badly.  Many women want to make a different to the world and this type of situation just holds them up, so they leave to pursue another way of achieving the same goal.  Many leave because they just get sick of butting up against the masculinised way that are organisations are structured.  Often this is at odds with a women’s aspirations, but not her ability.

We need to change the way that we do corporations, we need to pull them apart and put them back together in a way that recognises diversity and difference.  I don’t mean just at a surface level.  I mean that we need to start completely rethinking almost everything we know and think about in terms of the way that our corporations work and are managed.  Changing behaviours is one thing but I think to make this change sustainable we need to also look at the underlying assumptions that we have on how we are rewarded, what we think of as value, what is performance and how do these things fit together to create a fully functioning environment that is not largely hostile to one gender.  At the moment women are still working in environments where most functions, rules, policies, structures and even the business models used to create our strategies are largely masculine – or at least have been developed by and perpetuated by a largely male group, because women have not been involved until fairly recent history.

So unfortunately, Gender Discrimination is still rife in Australian Companies and pregnant women will continue to struggle until we address some of the underlying issues.

http://mobile.news.com.au/finance/work/can-you-believe-discrimination-against-pregnant-women-and-parents-are-still-rife-in-australia/story-fnkgbb6w-1227040131814

Emma Watson UN speech 21 September, 2014


If haven’t already seen this – you must!  She nails the description of feminism as  simply ‘equality for both men and women’, (yes, this is the theory).  She talks about the ‘inadvertent feminists’ that saw her only as an equal.  She points out that “men don’t have the benefit of equality also”, and finally she asks these questions;  “If not me, WHO?”, If not now, WHEN?”  Do yourself a favour and listen.  If you are a gender diversity fence sitter or a CEO that doesn’t see the benefits of gender balance and equal pay, then listen to this.

“I’m sorry”, “I can’t”, “I must” – lets change that inner voice


Be a Game Changer by changing your Inner Game – EMPOWERED IDENTITY

How often have you said, “I’m sorry”, “I can’t” or “I must” and felt the pressure of expectation on your shoulders. You might have felt burdened and unmotivated, confused or even angry. This is one of the biggest performance issues that hold us and our staff back but you can change your inner game and start to change the conversations with yourself that influence your beliefs and ultimately, your life.

During my Diversity Assessments and Gender Consulting, I often find that some women and men are almost held hostage by their own beliefs about themselves and the role that they think they need to fulfil in society. These beliefs do affect the way that we behave, they affect the way that we think of ourselves and this can translate into the way that we treat others, particularly our expectations of what other people should be doing. When we add traditional stereotypes to our judgements, these behaviours and beliefs can sabotage us. Sometimes you might feel like you can’t go forward and you can’t go back, you don’t know what decision to make and you feel totally worn out by ‘pushing against’ the norm, trying to get what you feel you deserve.

In speaking to hundreds of women over the last couple of years, I have found that we often fall into our gendered stereotypes even when we are actively working against them! I often hear statements that in effect, relegate the person into the very stereotype that they are trying to escape. I think that this is because we have been socialised we don’t even realise where our thoughts are coming from and this can lead to internal conflict. In our private lives this can manifest in all sorts of ways, but in our workplaces this can manifest as a lack of motivation, confusion and a degradation of performance.

I’m here to tell you that this is an organisational issue, not just a personal issue.

I believe that we won’t truly see greater women’s participation in leadership until we start to work on our inner game. For example, many of the young intelligent women that I speak to, tell me things like, “I have to take time off to have a baby”, or “My kids”, or “I have to”, or “I can’t”. They sometimes feel burdened and concerned about their job and how they will be perceived by others if they return, or if they don’t return to work. Its like you can’t win either way. When I talk to them about having a baby and how their organisation might support them, I ask them why they think they must take the time off and not their husband or partner. I point out that in actuality, they could have the baby and return to work almost immediately. They look at me strangely because they believe without a doubt that the child rearing, and particularly the early child rearing is their job. They must take the full burden of it, and to consider anything else is unheard of. If we are being perfectly fair, the child’s father could take over virtually straight away. Many new mothers don’t breast feed, so you could argue that it is only the time to recover from the birth that needs to be taken into account. Of course most mothers want to stay at home, and their are lots of studies that suggest that this is the best course of action, but in what paradigm is that? Don’t you wonder what lens and value system was in place when these studies were done, and what was the level of choice of those women at the time? Did they feel that they could really be honest and say that their career was really important or did they feel the enormous pressure of motherhood to be perfect and happy with this new life? How much of this pressure was self imposed?

We can challenge how we think about ourselves and reconsider our beliefs about ourselves, but in order to do this we need to look at our identity, what it means to us and how it is reflected by and affected by society and other people.

What might you achieve if you challenged the established norms of society? Check out our latest Working Session, “Be a Game Changer by changing your Inner Game – EMPOWERED IDENTITY”

Mining, Engineering, Finance and IT all have something in common when it comes to encouraging girls into the field.


In my work in the mining industry doing Diversity Assessments I have found that there is some commonality in the way this industry and IT have to work towards encouraging girls to enter.  Focus on the skills of the future and not the skills of the past.  Engineering provides the pathway to future development and sustainability and this appeals to women.  Studies in female investment show that women are more discerning when making decisions, looking closely at the details, they are interested in longevity and an organizations ability to support environmental sustainability.  They also like to ‘give back’ through investment and this research can be applied to the mining industry.   Information technology provides the skills to live in contemporary society where decisions and influence are done via technology.  Therefore they are ‘must have’s’, its not about telling girls that maths and science is cool.  Its about reframing the proposition so it makes sense to girls.

Are you programmed to support?


Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman

Many women have been socialised over decades in a female gender role which encourages them to be supportive, not to speak up and to defer to a male decision maker.  We are encouraged to be pretty, attractive, sexy and basically looked at and admired so it is hardly surprising that many women don’t know how to move past this stereotype and create new behaviours and expectations for themselves that allow them to more past some of the limitations of our traditional gendered roles.

In the workplace this can reduce their effectiveness, and may hinder their ability for promotion.  This is often more evident in non managerial roles where the role dictates that you are a supporter and not a leader.  In my Gender and Diversity work, I often hear managers say that women are given every opportunity to ‘step up’ but they just don’t and I think that some of this is due to that socialisation and the women’s own idea of what is expected of her.  Just providing the opportunities won’t be enough, we also need to change entrenched behaviours, our own self identity and our own expectations of ourselves as women to really make the change so diversity programs need to be aware of this when they are designed.  Unfortunately it is a longer road than many CEO’s will fund, but the pay offs in the long run are worth it for those that can make the leap.

Are some women creating new barriers for themselves?


fortune_500s_suffer_from_a_deficit_of_boardroom_diversity

A recent article in smh.com.au small business by Gayle Bryant March 08, 2013 said that; “To be a leader, a woman must think like a leader”, and referred to research by Suzi Skinner of Selftalk (selftalk.com.au), that identified that even when some women reach senior leadership roles they still struggle to come to terms with their new role and how they should behave and respond against the backdrop of how many women are still expected to behave, that is; how we are socialized to recognize the behaviors of the female gendered identity.  For some women, this new environment dealing with senior men can be daunting, but I would argue not because they lack the qualifications, the experience or the internal fortitude required, more because they have not been given permission from an early age to be a ‘leader’ that fits into the traditional business landscape.  By that I mean, fitting into business environments that have been built on having male leaders.  You only have to visit the majority of boardrooms to see the masculine furniture and decor and this alone can intimidate some women, particularly if they are not used to these environments.  Although most women are well used to working as the minority with greater number of men, there are underlying messages that tell us that this is a male friendly environment.  It is often designed with male decor in mind because it has largely male leaders who of course want to feel comfortable in their working environment.  These environments ‘tell’ us how to behave, what to expect and we know who is in charge just by looking at them, what’s more we expect to see a man as leader.  Heavy dark panelled wood walls were a feature in many older board rooms, coupled with timber tables and black leather chairs that give you messages about the hidden rules and behaviours that are required when you enter.

“I found even when women become leaders in a senior management role, they often find they are still not treated as they should be,” she says. “It might be that in meetings they are not being listened to, or people will talk through their presentations. One of my core findings is the need to create an environment where women are taken seriously and that will entail a major mindset shift.” says Suzi Skinner of Selftalk

I certainly agree with all the points in Bryant’s article and find this information mirrors my own observations.  I continue to see women in senior leadership still acting out their gendered roles, some more than others, but many still defer to the man in the room in one way or another.  As the article says, not all women want to become CEO’s just as not all men do, so the constant focus on women in leadership could be adding to a lack of equality and recognition for women generally – now there is something else for them to aspire to!

RFERENCE;  http://m.smh.com.au/small-business/to-be-a-leader-a-woman-must-think-like-a-leader-20130228-2f85o.html

A little equality test


Things have surely changed?

Things have surely changed?

How equal is your relationship? If you are a male executive and primary wage earner for your household, ask yourself if you would be happy to swap your salary for that of a female peer in your company or your female partner or your wife. Chances are that a female peer in your company will still earn 17% less than you do. Chances are your wife or daughter earns 17%* less for the same work as a man regardless of the role.

So when you are next negotiating a female’s wage and know that it is not parity of her male peers (mostly because it is not transparent), ask yourself again – would this be OK for me.

 

 

REFERENCES

http://www.jpost.com/National-News/CBS-Women-earn-17-percent-less-than-men-on-hourly-basis

http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2011/05/16/why-do-new-female-college-grads-earn-17-less-than-men/

http://www.iadb.org/en/news/webstories/2012-10-15/wage-gap-between-men-and-women,10155.html

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-08-13/how-much-is-the-ceo-worth-for-women-it-s-17-percent-less


Its up to us to change our own view of what it is to be a woman, so we can change the stereotypes for both men and women. How often do you have to catch yourself thinking that a women doesn’t look quite right or shouldn’t be doing that job? We can all challenge our beliefs about a woman’s role, and support organizations like Pantene who seem to ‘get it’.

Women have enormous purchasing power as consumers – let’s use it to.

Pantene nails the message about gender sterotypes