Today many companies work on gender issues by launching and running
initiatives aimed only at women–instead of for women and to educate men.
These “initiatives” run the gamut (women’s networks, leadership training for
women, coaching and mentoring for women) and are quite popular with many women — and even some men.
Many women enjoy the programs because they often feel more comfortable
with other women, and men enjoy feeling that they have given women
“equal opportunities” (even if those opportunities are limited and separate).
Both of these perspectives pose a paradox —a confirmation in many minds
that the lack of balance solely rests with the women because of their
choices. Imagine a perception that this can all be solved when women work
out the work/life issues! The reality is that the lack of balance is usually
because of the mindsets and cultures introduced and maintained by the
majority presently in power. When things do change, is it because that is
where most of the work actually had to be focused and accomplished. In
other words, if you want change, you must do the work.
Want to be more inclusive? Consider eliminating the word “women” using
instead— “customers,” “talent” or “leadership” – those will do just fine. The
more organizations talk about “women” the more they make the issue of
balance as a women’s issue and exclude the role of men in getting to the
solution. Gender balance can’t happen without the support and
understanding of male leadership.
Branding everything as “women’s” conferences, networks or programs
confirm in men’s minds that this is not their issue. What companies must
create is a meritocracy that recognizes and adapts and celebrates male and
female styles. Gender neutrality in vocabulary and establishing policy is the
foundation of when building sustainable balance.
Here’s one solution: Focus on the majority—those in power, which in most
companies is still men. They are the ones who still need to support,
champion and offer buy in for the case for balance. We know from
experience, most of men still don’t. Balance is built only if the people in
charge of organizations want it, understand the benefits and create
innovative cultures with policies designed to enable inclusion.
The Art of Inclusion® Is NOT about Focusing Only on Women
Consider: Sponsoring Strategic Conversations that get Exec Committees (still
led by mostly men) to spend a day talking about: THE WHY? THE WHAT? and
Involves spirited conversation about when and if the company should
aim for gender balance, why, how and how fast. It is in peer group
discussions that leaders begin to align a common understanding of the
opportunity (any issues) — and the goal.
Present a deep dive via an accelerated or fast track education on
gender differences and how to manage “bilingually” across genders.
Some leaders will possibly for the first time admit that they really
don’t understand women.
Using brainstorms, appreciative inquiry, build guidelines on how to
implement gender balance on a large (or global) scale, and what to
pitfalls to avoid. What are the innovative best practices, how to
radically reframe the whole issue as a strategic priority for all
managers. What will be the pace and sequence of the program and
what will be a realistic timeline?
This process can be eye opening. An experience that could possibly
completely turn upside down many of the ideas and approaches that men
had prior to immersing themselves in the topic. Amazingly, many of the
women involved also love the process. This kind of session gives everyone
the tools and skills to feel comfortable addressing gender issues.
In this second term of President Barack Obama, we have a case study on the
benefits of gender bilingualism. Men, in the 21st century, whether you want
to win elections or competitive edge, you can if you will to learn how to
connect with women as well as men—that’s the Art of Inclusion®. I trust
you are in health and I hold you in positive regard as you enjoy this blog