Many of the gender balance initiatives in corporations and organizations today have initiatives that fall under the umbrella that I call ‘Fixing Women’.
They are well meaning, good sounding, well-intentioned initiatives that seek to address issues like:
‘Women lack confidence”
“Women need to be more assertive”
“Women need mentors”
“Women are bad at negotiating”
“Women are poor networkers”
The underlying assumption is that there is something wrong with women.
This arrogance can lull you into false thinking that you know what is wrong; that you can ‘fix’ the problem; that you have an answer.
Of course, there is something wrong with women if you measure them against an exclusively male standard. The same way that there would be something wrong with men if you measured them against an exclusively female standard.
If you want to build your Gender Intelligence, there are five simple steps you can begin with:
1. Accept that there is nothing wrong with women; they don’t need to be ‘fixed’.
Accept that there is absolutely nothing wrong with women, or at least accept that there is nothing more wrong with women than there is with men! These women are on your team, more than likely you hired them yourself. If you inherited them, you opted to keep them. Now you need to lead them with ever increasing effectiveness. You can do that by beginning to question strategies that have to do with ‘Fixing Women’.
2. Question strategies that have to do with ‘Fixing’ Women
Instead of blindly accepting that the women on your team need some kind of ‘Fixing’, you could ask yourself “How do the women on my team, display confidence differently than the men?” By doing this, you start to engage your brain to develop Gender Intelligence. You begin to open doors to your own understanding of leadership. You choose to look for strength and courage in women. You begin to do something that is a very powerful leadership skill: you challenge yourself and your team to be better, to think more creatively, to look for strength where previously you have lulled yourselves into seeing weakness - something that needed to be ‘fixed’.
3. Recognize that women manifest certain qualities differently
Many women manifest confidence differently than men. It’s not better or worse. It is different. Feminine qualities and traits are much more relationship oriented than they are power oriented, particularly power over. It makes sense therefore that women will approach promotions or putting their hands up for major projects not as a challenge or a test or a way to prove themselves but rather as way to continue to build their skills, a way to strengthen their relationships, a way to take care of others, or provide opportunities for those behind them.
4. Observe what the women on your team do, and don’t do
Women are unlikely to go in to the bosses’ office and pitch that they are the perfect person for the job. Women are more likely to manifest confidence by assessing if this is the job they want. Women are more likely to want to know: Who are the other players on the team? How will you interact with or support this role? What is your relationship with this other person I may end up working for? Who will be reporting to me and will they be supportive? Do they want me to help them grow? Do my skills fit well with this job such that I will feel appreciated? Women won’t necessarily voice all of these concerns but they are constantly gathering data to make these assessments.
5. Acknowledge that most women operate from different concerns, desires and motivations than their male counterparts
Women are not immediately making the choice to sacrifice whatever it takes in the name of gaining power, meeting the challenge, or proving ourselves – women are instead confidently assessing if this will support our wellbeing and that of those around us. Is this a challenge I can be successful accomplishing or, are the odds in my favor or stacked against me? Not that women can’t deal with the odds being stacked against them, but women have high standards for harmony and agreement in the workplace and are generally less wiling to tolerate acrimony and discord than male team members. It may seem, to the Gender Ignorant eye that women are ‘lacking in confidence’, particularly if you measure them against exclusively male behavioral standards. However, they are simply manifesting confidence in a different way, born from different concerns, desires, and motivations.
So every time you find yourself or your organization trying to ‘Fix’ women – STOP – catch yourself being arrogant and intellectually lazy and ask yourself a new question based on the much more powerful understanding of Complimentary Leadership.
Begin to build your own Gender Intelligence and your own leadership capacity. Your increasing Gender Intelligence will support you working more effectively with not only the women and men on your own team but also with women and men senior to you in your company. It is such a rare Intelligence it will not go unnoticed.
This article was originally published here.