Despite what many may believe, research shows that there are more similarities than differences between men and women when it comes to motivations in business. So if women and men aren’t so different in what they want professionally, why do gender divides exist in everyday work?
Perhaps focusing away from “what” women and men think is a good place to start. Instead, consider that women process information differently and tend to construct meaning differently than men do. Considering “how” thinking happens is the difference. This opens a multitude of options that enable both women and men to succeed on equal terms in the workplace, by creating a culture of “and” instead of “or.”
Carole Gilligan’s path-breaking seminal research, “In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development,” originally published in 1982, showed us that women are relational in how they make value-based decisions. The relational decision-making process is radial and often perceived as indecisive and too time-consuming by linear decision makers.
Men tend to be more linear, with a mindset that drives them to get from point A to point B in the fastest route possible. Men also tend to be hierarchical in their decision making, forcing a consensus and alignment where one does not necessarily always exist. And yes, there are exceptions among individuals. The point is that successful traits of executive decision makers are culturally aligned with the linear, hierarchical approach. Because men have designed the majority of processes and infrastructures that support the current culture of industry, allowing for different decision-making models is rare in most corporate cultures.
The bias surrounding how the most important decisions should be made is that it should be done quickly and swiftly. Conversely, in many large organizations, leaders strive for alignment and consensus, often forced by group-think. In boardrooms, for example, women tend to ask tougher questions that their male counterparts believe take conversations off-course instead of adding to the considerations of big policy decisions.
Having an inclusive culture where innovation and growth outperforms exclusive environments means that diversity is acceptable and welcomed. Women and men process information differently and bring different approaches and perspectives to the table. Women also represent 50% of the people walking the earth, and chances are they represent a significant percentage of a business’s customer base. Research continues to show that when women are on corporate boards working side by side with equally qualified men, business is better.
It’s time to change the conversation. Enough with the stagnation, where numbers associated with gender equity, from boardroom representation to pay equity, continue to be imbalanced. Enough with choosing sides. Industry, innovation, and enabling each of us to make the world a better place takes all of us, not some of us. How do we evolve the gender equity conversation from being focused on the winless fight between best man or best woman, and replace it with how we find the best people? How do we create a culture that is inclusive of all approaches and perspectives?
Current organizational cultures, and the systems and processes that support them, are designed based on a bias toward a masculine definition of how decisions are made. Instead, imagine if a corporate status quo removed bias from decision-making altogether. Imagine each leader being able to lead in an authentic manner in a culture inclusive of multiple work and leadership styles.
Nirvana? Maybe not.
Join us for a great conversation at SAP SuccessConnect 2016 about creating a workplace culture where bias no longer limits talent and instead harnesses all the best talent.