New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0982056982/).]]>
1. Assess your organization’s culture.
a. Describe your organization’s culture. Which values are rewarded? Which values are discouraged? Which values best fit your own orientation to the world?
b. Share your perceptions with other colleagues and, possibly, with your boss.2. Identify your friendship rules. Talk to your friends, coworkers, and family members and bring these rules into your consciousness. Write them down. Continue to notice your unspoken expectations. 3. Identify the friendship rules of other women in your life, both inside and outside of work. Help bring these rules into their consciousness. Begin to notice where yours and theirs are similar and different. 4. Become more comfortable with conflict.
a. Make a list of the thoughts and feelings that come up for you when you think about conflict. Notice whether you think about conflict as negative or neutral. b. The next time a conflict or potential disagreement comes up, take the risk to reframe it as just a difference of opinion and stay engaged. Notice what happens. c. Assess how your organization holds or values conflict. Is conflict seen as healthy or as destructive? Is it encouraged or discouraged? Compare your perceptions with your coworkers and, possibly, with your boss.An excerpt from my book, New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0982056982/).]]>
There’s an expectation that you check your feelings at the door. “Hey, this is the workplace!” It’s not that men don’t cry, but women are more likely to cry when you hurt their feelings in the workplace, and I think it’s really hard to cry in the presence of a man. If you must cry, ask a woman friend to meet you in the restroom and cry with a woman.Once again, women are set up to be disappointed by each other in the context of the masculine workplace if they expect empathy and emotional engagement from each other, and some women are trying to play by the rules of the masculine workplace to get promoted. Many women in this study, as well as in my consulting and coaching work, have told me how important it is that they not cry at work. Why? Because they will be seen as weak? They will make men uncomfortable? Tears mean you are irrational and out of control? You can’t be a leader and cry? These reasons have never made sense to me. Expressing a full range of emotions is part of effective communication and authentic leadership. When women (and men) have to choke off emotion, such as those expressed by tears, they are choking off their ability to fully and authentically express themselves and are suppressing their voice. We will all benefit from working together to change this norm. An excerpt from my book, New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0982056982/).]]>
Yes, this is a story about a personal betrayal. But it is also a story about women’s friendship rules crashing into the norms of a “man’s world” where a friendship between two women is destroyed by behavior that is expected between men and rewarded by the organization. A lot has been written about the ways that most workplaces favor and reward masculine workplace values and discourage feminine workplace values, which are described in the table below.
Alice, who worked in an engineering environment, would have found herself right at home in a study conducted by Joyce Fletcher. Fletcher found that the relational practices (which include collaboration, teamwork, coaching, and empathy) preferred by the women engineers in her study were discouraged and undervalued by their organizations, even though the engineers produced good results. She observed that work environments in which engineering is highly valued are often characterized by autonomy, self-promotion, and individual heroics—where self-promotion is essential to being seen as competent.
|Table 2. Comparison of masculine and feminine workplace values|
|Masculine workplace values||Feminine workplace values|
|• Task focus||• Community/team focus|
|• Isolation/autonomy||• Connection|
|• Independence||• Interdependence|
|• Competition—individualistic competitive achievement||• Mutuality—achievement of success through collaboration|
|• Hierarchical authority||• Collectivity/flat structure|
|• Rational engagement (focus on task, logic, and the bottom line—leave personal matters at the door)||• Emotional engagement (notice body language and process, encourage relationships, share feelings and personal information, show empathy)|
|• Directive leadership style||• Supportive leadership style|
Teressa Moore Griffin and I have facilitated dozens of women’s leadership workshops. A few years ago, we began to notice something: the session had ended, but the workshop wasn’t over. The women who had participated had stayed after and were making plans to keep meeting. In fact, one group of women who attended this workshop ten years ago still meets twice a year, even though they live all over the United States. They host each other in their communities, do service projects together, and even help each other out in times of illness and crisis. And this group was not an anomaly, so Teressa and I began to ask ourselves, “What is going on? What’s driving this behavior?” Empowerment conferences for women are on the rise throughout the United States and internationally. Could it be that this surge is related to the pattern we observed at the end of our workshops? What need is being met by these conferences? Sure, women attend for the professional networking, but I think these conferences, and our workshop experiences, highlight something else. Women are missing community with other women. Consider these statistics:
- About 71 percent of American women with children under 18 are earning a paycheck while raising their children—and the demands of work and family mean they have very little time to spend with women friends.
- Only 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 13 percent of board members and 18 to 24 percent of political leaders are women, which means it’s lonely at the top for women in senior positions.
- I really wanted to have a diverse group of women friends, so an African-American friend and I (I am white) founded a black and white women’s support group. We are eight women who live all over the United States and meet twice a year in each other’s homes for a long weekend—and we cook and shop and laugh and have deep conversations late into the night. We have been meeting for more than 20 years, and, although we have had some changes in membership, we have been able to develop deep and caring relationships.
- I am also part of a different support group with two other women. We live in different cities and we talk monthly on the phone for one hour to encourage each other in accomplishing our goals. We have been doing this for more than 20 years. Since we have been meeting, one of us completed a fine arts graduate degree and is a practicing photographer, the other completed a fine arts graduate degree and has written two novels, and I completed my doctorate and presented my research in my new book, New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together. We set goals for what we will accomplish by our next call and we hold each other accountable. I would not have been able to accomplish the big goals in my life things without their support.
- I also joined a women’s leadership collaborative that met for five years to learn about women’s dynamics in community. After the five years were over, many of the women continued meeting, but I left to work on my doctorate and write my book. I recently rejoined the group, which meets once a year for a week. I really missed being in this community and I am so glad to be back.
- Additionally, one of my neighbors and I have been meeting at the gym and working out together with a trainer twice a week for more than 12 years—when I am in town. We do not see each other outside of the gym, but we look forward to catching up during our workouts and keeping track of the important moments in each other’s lives. And, of course, our workouts seem effortless because we enjoy each other’s company so much. I would really miss her if our shared workout time came to an end.