For decades, in order to make our voices heard, women in business strove to become members of the boys’ club. We mimicked how men thought, communicated, and even dressed. But now, for many of us trying too hard to tap into our “masculine side” has gone the way of severely tailored 1980s power wear (complete with giant shoulder pads), and a new study shows that we can and will continue to utilize our feminine strengths as gender equality in the workplace becomes more the norm.
As women, we know that we think and communicate differently—which means that we also lead differently. A researcher at the University of Salzburg in Austria agrees and suggests in his recent study that men and women not only have particular personality differences, but those differences grow in nations that have the greatest gender equality.
In addition to looking at personality traits, the study squared its findings against “gender equality” measured by the Global Gender Gap Index. The results showed that greater gender equality is associated with stronger expressions of gender difference. While the study’s author, Tim Kaiser says that it could be a “case of the personality adapting to changing societal conditions.” It could also be a situation where women are empowered to lead authentically as themselves.
Gender Equality in the Workplace Starts by Removing Bias
As it stands today, moving up the ladder is a competitive process, regardless of gender. However, to truly level the playing field, we need to create an environment where gender equality in the workplace is a given and ensure that advancements, promotions, and the entire workplace is free of discrimination and bias. Unconscious biases have a critical effect on our judgment and can stand in the way of women working their way into the C-suite.
Gender bias stereotypes – surrounding men and women – can lead to unfair decision making. To eliminate that from the workplace and advancement process, we need to educate employees about how stereotypes work. Mary Lorenz writes in Career Builder that since we are not always aware of our biases, we do not realize when they are influencing our decision-making; therefore, education and awareness are key to moving forward.
We also need to establish clear criteria before making decisions about hiring, promotion, etc. so that bias gets removed from the decision-making process.Research has shown the more formal the criteria are, the more women and underrepresented minorities will be hired. It’s also important to scrutinize that criteria on a regular basis and adjust and refine as needed.
It’s also important to set diversity goals, as agrowing body of research suggests that diversity in the workforce results in “significant business advantages.” Francesca Gino, professor at Harvard Business School says that at the end of every hiring process, leaders should track how well they’ve done against the diversity goals they set out to achieve.” This also encourages those involved in the hiring and in other parts of the company “to keep diversity and equality top of mind.”
And more than anything, be transparent. With education, clear criteria, and diversity goals, it should be a no-brainer to post numbers. As Lorenz writes, keeping, “track of our progress in terms of how we’re doing in terms of gender diversity in our workplaces really causes people to be more thoughtful in how they’re making decisions.” Transparency and accountability are essential tools in creating a gender equal workplace.
Because our natural skill set is increasingly valued in the global economy, we’re perfectly positioned to become today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. But in order for that to happen, and for women to have the opportunity to lead authentically, we have to level the playing field and work together to create a bias-free environment where women can use their unique skills and strengths to lead a more balanced and diverse workforce.