Gender Equality: Who Needs to Change?
Many companies in the United States and abroad have embraced the need for increased gender equality over the past couple of decades. As a result, gender diversity initiatives were formed to address the issue of fairness and equality in the workplace.
Traditionally, gender diversity programs have involved setting up networks for women and specialized assertiveness training to empower their female managers. Why? Because the traditional approach to gender diversity has been to “fix women”, recognizing the fact that to be successful in a male dominant organization, women must behave and manage more like men.
A new approach to creating gender equality is gender bi-lingualism. This approach addresses the same issue as a business issue rather than one of gender. The basis of this new approach is the acceptance of the fact that it is in the company’s best interests to promote and support female leadership.
The first critical step to gender bi-lingualism is the recognition that a different language exists between the genders and that this difference can, in fact, add tremendous value to the company’s leadership and economic success. Men and women can be equal and different. Women don’t need to change to be more like men to succeed.
Gender bi-lingualism allows men and women to recognize and accept the differences between the genders and see those differences as opportunities. All managers (not just women) are trained on these differences and the adoption of a wider range of acceptable management styles that is more inclusive of women. With this new approach to gender equality, women are not trained to be more like men. They don’t need to be “fixed” in order to be successful. They are accepted for the value that they inherently bring to the organization based on their own unique leadership style.
Tomorrow’s female money (80% of consumer spending decisions are made by women) and talent will go to the companies adapted to their needs, styles and motivations. This will require leadership, conviction and language skills. Getting the best out of women – as customers, employees or shareholders- requires managers and organizations to be genuinely gender bi-lingual. Are you? ~Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland, Why Women Mean Business, 2008
According to Wittenberg-Cox and Maitland in their recent book, Why Women Mean Business, CEO’s need to get serious about sex and make the decision that embracing gender bi-lingualism is in the best interests of their company. Once this decision is reached and communicated strategically throughout the organization, the difficult ongoing work begins to train all employees in the company. It is not an easy or immediate transition and requires the buy-in of all management to be successful. However, this holistic approach to gender equality is the most effective way to reach the goal.
So who needs to change? Everyone. There needs to be recognition that a male dominant organization is not well positioned for the future and once this decision is made from a business perspective, everyone in the organization needs to adapt and modify their behavior going forward, male and female alike.