What Men Gain When Women Are Successful

new research, reported by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant in the New York Times shows that gender equality is good for men, too. Consider some of these benefits for men in organizations:

  • Bringing on more women makes work teams more successful.
  • Women bring knowledge, skills, and new networks to the table.
  • Women take fewer unnecessary risks.
  • Women tend to collaborate in ways that strengthen teams and organizations.
  • Venture-backed start-ups with higher numbers of female executives are more successful.
  • Firms with more women in senior leadership generate more market value.
When companies are successful, more rewards and promotions are available for both men and women. Men’s careers do better in the long run when companies grow, and leveraging diversity in the global marketplace helps companies grow. Men also have a lot to gain at home by sharing the housework with their partners. Sandberg and Grant report studies that show happier marriages and longer lives—and more sex—for couples who share chores. All good, right? But wait! There’s more. Fathers, mothers, and children all benefit when men become more involved in parenting. Men become more flexible, empathic, and patient, and they are more satisfied with their jobs and have lower blood pressure and rates of cardiovascular disease when they care for children. And the children are more successful in their lives, too, when they see fathers doing housework and mothers pursuing careers. Gender equality is not only good for men, good for organizations, and good for marriages and families—it is also good for society. Sandberg and Grant reported that “25 percent of United States gross domestic product growth since 1970 is attributed to the increase in women entering the paid work force. Today, economists estimate that raising women’s participation in the work force to the same level as men could raise GDP by another 5 percent in the United States.” Gender parity will be good for all of us.]]>

The Confidence Myth : A Book Review

The Confidence Myth: Why Women Undervalue Their Skills and How to Get Over It, author Helene Lerner acknowledges both the external prejudices and the internal factors that create challenges for women, many of which I have discussed in previous articles. Lerner also debunks some long-held myths about confidence that are important for us to consider: Myth #1: Being confident means you are fearless. Lerner points out that, actually, most people who are successful sometimes feel fear, nervousness, or doubt. In fact, feeling nervous can keep us sharp and alert so that we are poised to do our best at important moments. Myth #2: Being confident means being self-sufficient and not needing help or support. Once again, not true. We all need people to be thought partners, coaches, and cheerleaders who encourage us to take risks and go for what we want. Myth #3: A confident person is calm and certain. Lerner points out that “confidence is taking action while having conflicting thoughts and sensations,” which doesn’t always mean being comfortable. Myth #4: Leadership presence is something you are born with. Not so, says Lerner. Leadership presence involves skills that we can learn. These skills include being authentic, demonstrating poise during stressful times, listening well, dressing appropriately, and using power language to assert yourself (especially true for women). Myth #5: If I don’t do it, no one else will. Lerner notes that learning to say no, setting limits with people, and identifying and prioritizing our own needs are essential to our own success. As women, we are often so focused on the needs of others that we don’t even know what our own needs are. Lerner suggests that we make time for simple pleasures that replenish us; get rid of time bandits like guilt, people pleasing, and perfectionism; and learn to say no. Myth #6: Being a “nice” person means not bragging and not talking about my abilities. We need to be able to toot our own horns and advocate for ourselves. How will others know what we are good at—or how confident we can be—unless we tell them? Myth #7: Women have to be twice as good, or perfectionists, to get ahead. Even in the face of prejudices and negative stereotypes about women, Lerner argues that we need to give up perfectionism. Being perfect is not attainable and striving for that standard is not sustainable. It’s better in the long run to take risks, reach high, and grow from mistakes—and learn to use a standard of “good enough” to keep from getting paralyzed by perfectionism. Myth #8: Good leaders always make rational decisions. Nonsense, once again. Lerner points out that “research shows a positive correlation between intuition and business success.” Learning to listen to and trust our intuition, or inner voice, is not some feminine magical notion. In fact, both male and female leaders talk about the importance of making rapid decisions that draw upon their experience. Lerner states that we can even reframe intuition as “the rapid processing of everything we already know, everything we’ve learned and experienced.” However you explain it, we each have an inner voice we can learn to trust and that can be an important source of information. Lerner’s book is packed with useful information, real-life stories, and exercises to develop important skills for creating the perception of confidence. I highly recommend this book.]]>

What’s Different about Leading Women?

New Rules for Women, shows—that women often have different relationship expectations of their female colleagues than they do of males. I call these expectations women’s friendship rules. We begin to develop friendship rules at a very young age, but by the time we are adults our friendship rules have become unconscious. Men have friendship rules, too, but because of differences in our gender socialization, theirs are not the same. Women’s friendship rules tend to be much more egalitarian and relational, while men’s expectations, reflected in most workplace cultures as “the right way to be,” are more transactional and hierarchical. Women expect female colleagues and team members to be friendly, to share personal information, and to be collaborative. In fact, the coach in our opening story seems to be reflecting men’s friendship rules when she asks how to get the women to “just focus on the task” of winning games. I told the coach she was asking the women to be men—and they are not men—which would not work. As their leader, her task is to help them build the strong relationships they need for effective teamwork and to be motivated to win. I also suggested that she was another factor in the motivation equation. Not only do our friendship rules create expectations of peers and colleagues, but my research shows that female subordinates often expect different leadership behaviors from their female managers or leaders as well, needing them to be more relational, too. They do not have this expectation of male leaders. This means the female coach may need to spend more time chatting and getting to know her team members than she’s accustomed to motivate them. Here are five tips for leading women in the office and on the playing field:

  1. Create a shared vision, or picture, of a high-performing team. What is happening? How does it feel to be a team member? How are team members working together? Facilitate a conversation among the team members to help them create a shared vision of what it means to them to be a high-performing team.
  2. Make team agreements, or explicit friendship rules, about how team members will behave to support each other, be friendly, handle disagreements, compete, and have different roles and styles. We are not all the same, and we need to make our expectations clear to each other and find common ground about what to expect.
  3. Tend to relationships, and do not push hurt feelings or misunderstandings under the rug. Create regular spaces to clean the relational field, or take time to talk about interactions that have not gone well and create new agreements about how to handle them next time.
  4. Celebrate successful teamwork.
  5. Encourage friendships, but discourage cliques, for the good of the team.
Women’s gender socialization means that for many women being team players and collaborating comes easily. We need to be intentional, though, about making our unconscious expectations of each other explicit so that we can both work hard as individuals to reach our individual potential and be authentic and caring as friends and teammates who maintain strong and supportive relationships. We can do both.  ]]>

Women Get Interrupted: Four Ways to Stop This Pattern

my clients and many women in my research talk about how difficult it is to get their ideas heard in meetings and about the double binds they find themselves in when they try. Kathy, a technology manager in her thirties, explained, “They say that men interrupt each other all the time and women don’t. If I’m in a meeting and I interrupt, I get in trouble, but I don’t see men get in trouble when they interrupt me. They say that women don’t do it, but when you do, it’s seen as very aggressive and inappropriate.” Alice, a technology manager in her fifties, said, “There were eight men on the team and I was the only woman. It was a constant battle [to get heard], and I almost had to be perceived as a bitch to get my point across—and then I was perceived as a bitch.” Eventually Alice left this team and took a lesser assignment. In both cases, Kathy and Alice worked in predominantly male environments and were seen as aggressive and inappropriate when they pushed to be heard. It’s not uncommon for women of all ages in these environments to feel they are in a no-win situation and to then become silent in team meetings, or to leave, to the detriment of the team. In a recent article in the New York Times, Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg wrote about the pervasiveness of women being interrupted or having their ideas shot down before they even finish speaking in meetings. They reported new studies showing the broad scope of the double binds for women in many workplace settings when they try to contribute their ideas. One study from Yale psychologist Victoria L. Brescoll found that “male senators with more power (as measured by tenure, leadership positions and track record of legislation passed) spoke more on the Senate floor than their junior colleagues. But for female senators, power was not linked to significantly more speaking time.” Another study by Professor Brescoll asked professional men and women to evaluate the competence of chief executives. She reported that “male executives who spoke more often than their peers were rewarded with 10 percent higher ratings of competence. When female executives spoke more than their peers, both men and women punished them with 14 percent lower ratings.” Grant and Sandberg report other studies showing that men who spoke up were rated as more helpful, while women who spoke up did not receive any increase in perceived helpfulness. We need to interrupt these patterns of double binds and punishments for women who try to speak up. These patterns not only harm and discourage women from participating, but also deprive organizations and teams of valuable ideas. Here are four tips to interrupt gender bias:

  1. Share ideas anonymously. Sandberg offered this method of soliciting suggestions and solutions to problems anonymously, to create a gender-blind environment for the evaluation the ideas. She compared this method to the discovery made by some orchestras that the only way they could achieve gender balance was to hold auditions behind screens so that the gender of the applicant was not known by the selection panel. It was also necessary for applicants to enter the audition on a carpet so that the sound of women’s high heels did not give them away as they entered. Magically, with the implementation of anonymity, these orchestras began to hire significantly more women.
  2. Encourage women to speak. Leaders need to notice when the women on their teams may have given up and stopped participating and then invite them to speak.
  3. Institute a “no interruptions” rule. Grant and Sandberg share this best practice used by a colleague that worked to make his whole team more effective.
  4. Increase the number of women in leadership. The presence of more women in leadership shifts these dynamics as people get used to women speaking and leading.
If you have been successful in creating mixed-gender environments where you or other women have been able to overcome these double binds, please share with us what you have learned.]]>

Women Are Better Leaders Than Men

New research conducted by the leadership consultancy Zenger Folkman and authored by Bob Sherwin shows women scored higher than men on twelve of sixteen leadership competencies at all levels of management, including the executive level. So why is it that, worldwide, only 3–4 percent of CEOs are women? Two key reasons why women continue to experience a glass ceiling at senior levels are

  • The persistence of negative stereotypes about deficiencies in women’s leadership capabilities despite more and more data showing the inaccuracy of these stereotypes.
  • Second-generation bias, defined by Debra Kolb and Jessica Porter in their new book, Negotiating at Work, as, “an organization’s policies and practices that appeared gender neutral [but] could have unintended but differential impacts on different groups of men and women.”
The good news is that data from recent research about the value that women bring to organizations is adding up, and we can use this data as a chisel to chip away at negative stereotypes and invisible structural barriers.  

About This Study

The sample for the Zenger Folkman study included the 360-degree feedback data for 16,000 leaders in a wide variety of industries. Two-thirds of the leaders in the study were male and one-third female. All participants had feedback from their managers, direct reports, and peers.  

Research Findings

Women scored higher than men on twelve of sixteen leadership competencies measured by the 360-degree feedback assessment, and ten of these differences were statistically significant. One surprise in the findings was that while most people polled by the researchers assumed that women would excel in the nurturing competencies (developing others, inspiring and motivating others, relationship building, collaboration, and teamwork), in fact, these were not the strongest scores for the women. The largest positive differences for women were in taking initiative, displaying integrity and honesty, and driving for results. Women also outperformed men in the nurturing competencies, but their strongest scores were in getting tasks done and delivering results—counter to some negative stereotypes about women leaders. These results held up across functions usually considered traditionally male, such as sales, legal, engineering, IT, and R and D. The study’s author notes, “Only in facilities management and maintenance do [women] not do well.” Also, the higher the women rose to the executive level, the more positively they were perceived. I think it is significant that this last finding is based on feedback from people who actually knew and worked with the leaders. In contrast, the “likeability” literature, reviewed in my previous blogs, seems to show conflicting results when women advance, but that research is based on hypothetical leaders described in case studies and may not be as meaningful as the findings reported here.  

How to Chip Away at Negative Stereotypes

  1. Be informed. Keep a file of articles with research showing positive findings about women in organizations. In addition to the information reported here about women being better leaders, I have written in previous blogs about other positive research findings, including
    1. Men are more confident, but women are more competent.
    2. When women lead, performance improves.
    3. Start-ups led by women are more likely to succeed.
    4. Innovative firms with more women in top management are more profitable.
    5. Companies with more gender balance have more revenue.
  2. Inform others. Circulate articles reporting positive data on women that challenge existing stereotypes and help make the case for promoting women. Make sure to include your boss on the list you send information to, and bring it up with her or him from time to time. This can help your boss justify fighting for an opportunity for you behind closed doors.
  3. Join with others. Join with other women and men who want to identify the second-generation bias in the policies and practices in your organization and raise them up for scrutiny and change. Second-generation bias, as described by Kolb and Porter, is unintentional and invisible, but can create significant barriers for women and other nondominant groups. You can work with others to make biases visible and open a pathway to change.
Negative gender-based stereotypes and second-generation bias are deeply entrenched, but we can chip away at the barriers they create if we are persistent and informed.]]>

Could Subtle Gender Bias Be Holding You Back? How to Recognize and Overcome It

gender wage gap, which indicate that women make somewhere between 62 percent and 77 percent compared with the wages of male colleagues who do the same work (and the wage gap is much worse for women of color), but they don’t think the same could be happening to them. But gender bias can be subtle and hard to recognize. Are any of the scenarios below familiar to you? If so, gender bias may be working against you.

  • Recently a woman came to me for coaching because her boss told her that she needed to smile more to get promoted. She wanted me to help her learn to smile more, but she was bewildered about what this feedback really meant.
  • Another woman came for coaching because her supervisor gave her a mediocre performance review, calling her “indecisive” because she spent too much time “coddling” her team by asking for their input on decisions—yet her results were very strong.
  • Yet another woman recently came for coaching about how to get promoted. She had been with her large company for more than twenty-five years. She wanted to become a senior leader and had done everything her mentors suggested to prepare herself, yet in more than ten years she had been offered nothing more than lateral job changes while men all around her were moving up. When she asked why she was not moving up, she was told she lacked “executive presence” with no useful guidance about what she needed to do differently.
Each of these cases could be explained away as deficiencies that the individual women needed to fix. In fact, both my professional experience and a lot of recent research show that these women are probably being held back by common biases and assumptions present in many organizations. These biases are subtle and hard to see, but they can have a significant impact on women’s careers, self-confidence and pay level. Could subtle biases be holding you back? Here are some techniques that may help:
  • Smile more. Do we really have to smile more? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, for now. The subtle bias usually operating in this feedback has to do with the difficulty women have being perceived as both competent and likeable, discussed by Sheryl Sandberg as “the likeability factor. To overcome this bias, educate yourself about gender bias in the workplace and keep conversations with your boss focused on your results. Document your results and remind your boss about them from time to time—while smiling. Networking with other women and having a “safe setting” where you can share experiences, feedback, and best practices is important too.
  • Exercise collaborative leadership. The ability to build and utilize teams is a strength women should feel proud of and leverage. The command/control leadership style that is rewarded in most organizations is not the only style that produces results but is often the only style that gets rewarded. Share some reading materials about gender style differences with your boss and challenge him or her to consider supporting diverse leadership styles. Start a book club with both female and male colleagues to discuss gender style and leadership style differences and work together to encourage the organization to recognize and reward a broader range of leadership styles.
  • Demonstrate executive presence. Promotion decisions based on “lack of executive presence” for women often reflect a gender bias in organizations—men are more comfortable “tooting their own horns” about their accomplishments and nominating themselves for assignments and promotions for which they may not even be qualified. Women hesitate to do the same or underplay their accomplishments, which can be interpreted as lacking executive presence. As women, we can learn to be more self-promoting. We can also agree to promote each other to senior leaders.
If we educate ourselves about gender bias, we will be more likely to recognize it when we experience it and to know whether feedback is useful or not. We also need the support of other women so that we can share best practices for dealing with subtle workplace bias. And we need the support of male colleagues who understand how subtle gender bias operates. With awareness, action, and support we can overcome these barriers that hold us back. Have you encountered subtle gender bias at work? Have you found ways to overcome it?]]>

Tears at Work: Natural but Taboo

The Complexity of Connection. As one of my research participants explained, in most workplaces where masculine workplace values dominate the culture, you are expected to “leave your feelings at the door” when you come into the workplace. I have always felt that tears are a natural expression of a wide range of emotions, from intense joy to deep frustration or disappointment, as well as less extreme emotional reactions, such as a release in response to the pressures of deadlines. Both men and women shed tears at work, but because of our socialization, women tend to express emotion more easily and tears come more often for them. Anne Kreamer’s study found that women cry in the office more than men do—40 percent of women cry compared with 9 percent of men. I feel sad, though, that so many of my female clients feel they must suppress their tears at work. They have sometimes been told by supervisors that they are “too emotional.” When I ask why they think they should stuff down their tears, they have many answers:

  • They will be seen as weak if they shed tears.
  • They will make their male colleagues and bosses uncomfortable.
  • They will be seen as irrational and out of control.
  • They have been told that 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 their tears, they are choking off their ability to fully and authentically express themselves and they are suppressing their voices. Here are some ideas for what to do when your emotions and your eyes well up at work.
  • Keep breathing, rather than trying to choke your tears down by holding your breath. You will probably find that if you keep breathing you can continue to talk.
  • Explain to your coworkers that you are fine and that your tears do not mean you cannot participate in the conversation or meeting. Explain what you’re feeling (frustration, joy, or whatever) right now; these feelings are probably very relevant to what is going on. Just keep talking if you can.
  • Excuse yourself and step out if you need a break because your emotions are really strong; then come back when you are ready. Explain your actions and pick up where you left off, thereby demonstrating that people can cry and not become dysfunctional.
Being authentic makes you a stronger leader, not a weaker one. When you are authentic, people will trust you more and become more comfortable with emotions—maybe even with their own. We are, after all, all human. Where do you stand on this issue? Write to me and let me know.]]>

Is Something Missing in Your Life?

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:

Additionally, many women still find themselves having to fit into workplace cultures where only masculine norms of behavior are valued. This could mean that they may feel like outsiders at work and are hungry to be with others who share their experiences as women in the workplace. Barbara Berg, a historian and the author of Sexism in America, references the empowerment conferences when she says: These meetings give us the sense that we’re communicating and connecting at a time when I think so many of us have felt so isolated. I think these conferences have capitalized on a yearning to be part of something.   Getting Creative about Creating Community I remember when, because I was traveling a lot for work, I realized that I didn’t have enough “girlfriend” time in my life. I had a great relationship with a lovely man, but I really missed having time with women friends to talk and share and laugh with and to get that special kind of support you can only get from other women. My travel schedule meant that I could not be part of a regular group because I was rarely in town, so I had to get creative. Here’s what has worked for me:
  • 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.
So, this is what works for me. How do you build community with other women? What has worked for you? I look forward to hearing from you.]]>

Three Reasons Why Organizations Need More Women in Leadership

Sallie Krawcheck in Time magazine highlights three reasons why organizations need more women in leadership:

  1. Prevent Groupthink. Women can add much-needed diversity of perception. Sallie Krawcheck tells her story of being fired from her position of running Smith Barney at Citigroup during the financial crisis. She was fired for diverging from the groupthink of the financial industry by daring to suggest that clients should be partly reimbursed for losses caused by Smith Barney’s selling them high-risk products. Before she was fired, Sallie reports that she would not have said that her approach to decision making was related to her gender. After she was fired, however, Krawcheck’s research helped her understand that women tend to be more risk-averse and client-relationship focused—a value they can bring to the workplace and that she tried to bring to Smith Barney and the industry.
  2. Increase Stock Prices. Recent research shows that stock prices of businesses that have women in corporate leadership roles tend to be higher than those of their counterparts. These businesses perform considerably better and pay larger dividends to economic investors, even during economic downturns.
  3. Increase Pay Equity. Krawcheck, in an article in Forbes, also points out that companies with more diverse leadership teams have lower gender pay disparities throughout the workforce.
It’s not that women are better leaders than men; it’s that the diversity of perspectives women bring to a leadership team are complementary and can help prevent groupthink and challenge conventional wisdom. Women often bring greater focus on relationships and fairness to decision making. But it’s also very important that there be more than one token woman (or token anyone) on the team to have a chance of different perspectives being seriously considered. These are three of the reasons why organizations need more women in leadership, and I’m sure there are many more. What reasons come to mind for you? What examples do you have of times when diversity made a difference?]]>