For too many years, women leaders and managers did not want to discuss or even acknowledge our femaleness; we wanted to focus solely on leadership and management skills and results. It was as if we were supposed to ignore the fact gender exists.
Recent triggers and public discourse about women in leadership and management once again made gender acceptable to discuss out loud. Some of these triggers are:
1. Sheryl Sandberg’s (COO, Facebook) book, Lean In
2. Debora L. Spar’s (7th president of Barnard College) book, Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection
3. Sallie Krawcheck starting the #investinwomen campaign by buying 85Broads.com
4. More women CEO appointments in Fortune 1000 companies
5. Recent discussions and public discourse following Dick Costolo (CEO of Twitter), tweeting about his board composition: “You’re not seeing my point. You give people an easy out by just checking a box. The issues are much bigger than checking any 1 box.”
There are many myths and truths about how leadership styles, gender bias and culture (nature or nurture) affect “access” to education/capital/opportunities and career growth (AKA, glass ceiling) for women. We believe inclusion or exclusion of women affects performance of companies and organizations, as reflected in financial statements, operational success, reputation and brand. There is research about this (see references below), but the best summary came from Sallie Krawcheck in a tweet: “We can’t prove correlation or causation but it’s a hell of a coincidence: When we have diverse teams, returns are higher.”
We set out to continue this conversation by interviewing women leaders from around the globe, from various market verticals and with various organizational goals (corporate, not-for-profit), and asking them questions about how and why they:
1. Make career choices
2. Manage risk
3. Mentor or sponsor
4. Leverage networks
6. Make decisions
7. Manage teams
8. Influence outcomes of organizations
9. Remove group-think of corporate boards
10. Face and overcome hurdles
To help us do this, I invited Professor Sharon (“Sherry”) Peck to ask the important questions and write about it. Sherry is an associate professor of business in Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership (her bio is given below). She and I spend many hours discussing these issues. I think you will enjoy her style of asking questions and eliciting responses that will help all of us gain a better understanding of the role of gender in leadership and how it drives outcomes.
When I was telling people I was planning to use the real-estate of PAKRA blog pages for this issue, they asked me why. Here is why:
1. Women are buyers for our products and services as much as men are.
2. Women are a larger percentage of users of our products.
3. Behaviors such as critical thinking (“what one does with what one knows”), risk-taking, competitive drive and communication are some of our game-scoring mechanisms. These behaviors, in turn, drive business-process KPIs or outcomes and how people learn. We cannot claim we understand the behaviors better by ignoring gender. It might not play a role in how we build learning adoption, but maybe it does. We will learn something.
4. PAKRA's founders are deeply passionate about this issue.
The first interview will be published later this week. We plan to publish one-two interviews per month. Come back and read, share and comment.
1. What Can a Ball and a Bucket Teach Us About Why Women Earn Less Than Men? John List and Uri Gneezy; Freakanomics Blog; October 9, 2013
2. Transformational, Transactional, and Laissez-Faire Leadership Styles: A Meta-Analysis Comparing Women and Men; Alice H. Eagly, Mary C. Johannesen-Schmidt and Marloes L. van Engen; Psychological Bulletin, 2003, Vol. 129, No. 4, 569–591
3. Stocks Perform Better if Women Are on Company Boards; Heather Perlberg; Bloomberg.net, July 31, 2012
4. Six Paradoxes Women Leaders Face in 2013; Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt; Harvard Business Review Blog, January 3, 2013
5. Maybe You Should Read the Book: The Sheryl Sandberg Backlash; Anna Holmes; New Yorker, March 4, 2013
6. Yes, You Can: Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”; Anne-Murray Slaughter; The New York Times, March 7, 2013
7. If you're going to be a leader, at least act like it! Prejudice towards women who are tentative in leader roles; R. Bongiorno, PG Bain, B. David; British Journal of Social Psychology, 2013 Mar 19. doi: 10.1111/bjso.12032
8. Are Women Better Leaders than Men? Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman; Harvard Business Review Blog, March 15, 2012
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