by Becky Heidesch

A Women’s Race . . . Leadership defines Culture!

In Audrey Lee’s article, “How to break up the good old boys’ club in your office”, she takes us back to where and how it started, “once upon a time, the workplace was very uniform and standard.  With women’s place in the home, and little ethnic diversity, the workplace was dominated by white men. And their judgments, styles and perspectives created the workplace culture and narrative that we still experience today. The adage that “the Old Boys’ Club is where business gets done”, was a common belief. According to Lee, this is “the network where the unwritten rules define insiders and the outsiders. The standards that decide who is successful and who is not.”

Studies show that it is common for senior executives and managers to mentor someone who is similar to them. While this is natural, Lee states, “this kind of system will continue to perpetuate the dominate culture and style and not allow for other diverse leaders to be developed and brought into the ranks.”

While we are making some headway with diversity and inclusion training, and work environments are becoming more inclusive, there are still a lot of women who tell me that they are still afraid to stand up and voice the inequities they face in promotions, job titles and responsibilities, credit for work and equal pay.  Women are still penalized for speaking up.  They run the risk of being alienated by the white males who lack today’s inclusive and strategic mindset in embracing diversity of thought.  It’s okay and accepted for men to step up and voice their grievances but for women, research has shown that both men and women are harder on women and the results are often less favorable for women.

To add to the plight for women advancing, I’ve known women who have been ostracized by other women who think they are more deserving of a promotion or raise or just plain jealous.  We have heard this dynamic referenced before as the Queen B syndrome.  Because women have had to fight long and hard and are still fighting for equal pay, it’s understandable that some women might feel this way and less inclined to support other women openly.

Generations are changing and younger females in the workforce seem less competitive with their female colleagues.  But will they notice something different in their working years ahead.  I was recently having dinner with a successful, female attorney and business mentor.  Sandy shared that even though she worked in Silicon Valley as an attorney in a male dominated office, it never phased her about any inequities.  At least not until years later when she became a mom!  It was then that Sandy said, the light bulb went on.  I started seeing these things and thinking of my daughters and decided it was time to start speaking up.

Women are still struggling to be fully recognized and appreciated for their worth in the work place.  We see it in every industry and most especially at the senior leadership and board levels.  We still have work to be done!

It should be noted that women are not the only ones who experience forms of gender bias at work, men too are being passed up for promotions and can experience bias in the work place.

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