This is the man’s world or Why gender diversity programmes don’t work – Part 1
Large proportion of my clients are from the financial industry. You can feel alpha, super masculine approach out there. Even that very small portion of women within the industryembrace it. After some serious money that a few big players payed as a result of law suits for sex discrimination in the last decade of the last century and on the beginning of the new century, it was predictable that financial industry will do what they do the best – give money. They started to allocate quite a sums for diversity programs (In this text, I will talk only about gender diversity problems). But, as we know from life experience, money can’t solve all the problems. Through the years, although they have been giving more and more money into gender diversity programs, results are devastating – there are little or no improvements. They are talking about it publicly more then internally, technically doing everything to show they are working on it, but it is just about tickling the boxes before tasks on the list. Those companies are basically doubling down on the same approaches they’ve used since the 1960s by declaring that diversity management is strategical to company and having mandatory trainings.
Diversity by definition means dissimilarity, difference, variety, heterogeneity, contrast. The simplest way is going by numbers. When we talk about gender, it is about to have as balanced as possible number of different genders. It is 2019 and many companies are dealing with this issue and mostly failing. While you can see that there are no women or there are less than 5% of them in senior roles, be sure you will find one as human resource manager. That is also for tickling the box. Trying to have some women on the board just in order to say you have them is wrong approach. What about 1.4 million people in US identifying as transgender? What about 50 children a week being referred to the UK’s leading gender identity clinic? What about Australian’s proposal of 33 different gender labels? Are they going to have quotas for each gender label?
One of the things they like to do is collecting data. So, they are hiring consultants, usually from the big consultant companies, to make as much data as it possible. So this consultants are questioning and testing client’s employees about their opinions, attitudes and bias on the subject. Those data are used to justify managers who don’t have will and/or courage to deal with the problem and to make real change, just wanting to show externally that they are aware of the problem and they are working on it. Let’s be real and honest, people are easily taught to respond correctly to a questionnaire about bias, in the practice they soon forget the right answers. Even kids in high school already know what are socially desirable and politically correct answers. Nothing better I don’t have to say about mandatory diversity trainings. The positive effects of trainings rarely last beyond a few days. It is again just to tickle the box in front of the task.
Our biases are our filters through which wee see and understand the world and it is difficult to overcome them. Explicit biases are mostly unwelcome in todays business, but implicit bias refers to sneakier attitudes or stereotypes that we hold but are not generally aware of. Your explicit belief might be that everyone is equal, but you may find yourself reacting inconsistently. Some example would be adjusting your posture or walking speed when you walk past a young male of a different race at night, having a discomfort reaction to gay men displaying signs of affection, or to people who are transgender, thinking badly about eating habits of an overweight person eating food on the street, treating male and female children differently and similar.
It is somewhere in our DNA that masculinity is connected with strength and decisiveness while femininity with caring and embracing. Furthermore, more masculine would be natural science and more feminine would be social sciences, femininity more about emotional intelligence, masculinity more about cognitive intelligence, masculine more strategic, feminine creative and all the way down to pink more feminine, blue more masculine etc. I don’t want even bother to discuss is it true or not, because it might be and probably is. But that
femininity/masculinity story has nothing to do with genders. Root of the problem lies in misunderstanding that femininity is the same as female gender and masculinity is the same as male gender which is very far from the truth. All genders have both masculine and feminine energy. Depending on circumstances and our needs we are using them in different balance. Of course, depending on our background we have certain energy balance as our base from which we leverage. Having good balance of feminine and masculine energy (within ourselves, team, company etc.) is like having advantages of using both side of the brain equally. Nowadays we know it is possible. Mentioning all of above, we can now look at the financial sector again and women in it. In some of companies from financial industry they are really working on quotas while recruiting. And you can see more junior women but they either don’t go much higher in the hierarchy or they leave the industry. In my opinion, quota approach is of a little help because is just a short term solution but actually distraction from the bigger challenge of helping women rise on their merits. Senior positions like Chairman of the Board went from 3 – 6% in the last 20 years. What a poor job! Big majority of women there, especially those who survive to their senior positions are characterised by their male colleagues as being masculine in their thinking and/or business approach. So, again we can not talk about diversity because we have masculine males and masculine females.
When I ask those women is it their natural balance of energy most of them tell me exact answer “it is the only way to survive”. That leads to my second sentence form this text “You can feel alpha, super masculine approach out there”. It is a culture of the whole industry. Here, I am not talking about and questioning is it the masculine energy all they need for making more money. I am trying to make point that diversity is not guaranteed even if you have gender balanced team. You can already see difference in energy balance within gender between generations. Although I really dislike generations (or anything) put in boxes named Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millenials and Centennials it is the easiest to take those box names at the moment to explain that average (wo)men from generation of Baby Boomers has quite different energy balance within him/herself than average representative of Millenials or Centennials. And let’s face it, average means majority. Change of masculine and feminine balance in both genders is very visible on all levels of their lives.
So, those leaders who think all they need is masculine energy should hire more females as juniors in the future and in 30-50 years should be more females in, for example, financial industry. Otherwise, either there will be discrimination in recruiting and you will still have more male gender or you will find out you need masculinity and femininity well balanced. I don’t know about you, but I wanted to have both mission but also a purpose, being strategic but also creative, in solving problems or innovations for example, be able to use my analytical skills without loosing “feeling”, have both helicopter view and be detail oriented and be able to manage and lead different people and situation differently. For that kind of leadership we need our energies as balanced as those can be. It is possible and should be a personal assignment to every leader who wants to be a natural, not by hierarchy, leader. And beside all of mentioned, I wanted to be successful business person but also a mother, friend, helpful daughter, recreative sportswomen and a lot of other things. And it is possible, I am managing it with ups and downs like any other quite balanced person of any gender. To get there, first we need to be aware of those energies, understand them and be willing to put resources (here thinking of time at first place) to educate and develop ourselves.
Development starts when you exit your comfort zone. How is the situation in your yard? Is it everything on individual level? What about companies? They are living organisms, too. Like any organism it has its culture. Understanding current culture, knowing where your organisation wants to go, developing transformation system that can support transformation and having consensus on changing behaviour on individual level are must if you want to succeed on diversity. Companies need to go a few levels deeper and wider to really solve this issue. What that means in practice? This is the new tasks’ list that needs to be tickled: companies need to increase on-the-job contact with minority workers and promote culture of fairness, integrity and social accountability.
Trainings needs to be voluntary and constantly available. Diversity task forces need to be incorporated, diversity managers appointed. Companies needs to go out of their walls and to talk to the young people, to make targeted college recruitment, have mentoring programs, support and develop programs like “girls can do anything” and similar. More educated, developed and well balanced individuals at one place can speed up changes. Invest in your people, more and constantly. Culture once changed will attract different people to approach by themselves, feeling free to be the boldest version of theirselves, be effective, develop, raise in hierarchy and stay in the industry. Majority of leaders know all the above mentioned. They have knowledge, experiences, tools, budgets.
So, why gender and other diversity programmes don’t work? Just because they really didn’t decide to make them work. Still, this is the men’s world and women are not helping the situation either.
To be continued…
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