Productive Gender Equality Conversations

Gender equality producses a positive effect on innovation, decision making, and profitability.  I call it the Yin-Yang effect.

There is a reason men working alongside women produces superior business results – higher profitability, lower attrition, better ideas, increased customer satisfaction, just to name a few.  I call it the Yin-Yang effect.

Yin-Yangs were popular when I was a kid.  A symbol of balance where seemingly opposite forces complement one another.  That is what allies for equality is all about.  By achieving more gender balance and equality, we both benefit.  It is not a zero sum game.  It is not a win-lose scenario.  It is a win-win when we work together.

Men and women are different – biologically, emotionally, hormonally – we are wired differently.  That is a good thing.  As women, we bring our feminine lens to the dialogue and men bring their masculine lens.  We look at things from a different perspective.  We win when we bring those different lens together to solve problems and make decisions.

Gender socialization is a term that refers to how we are raised as girls and boys.  From a very young age, girls are to be more collaborative, inclusive, and empathetic, whereas boys are usually taught to take risks, be confident, and be emotionless.  In isolation, these behaviors are not helpful.  A female dominated world would struggle to be decisive, set boundaries, and engage in conflict.  Male dominated worlds (just look around) struggle to gain buy-in, promote creative solutions, and engage people at work (current engagement levels are stagnant at just 33%).

We need to talk to our allies.  We have more in common than we have differences. 

So, what does a good gender equality conversation look like?

The conversations we need to be having

Productive conversations feature powerful open-ended questions (starting with “what” or “how”), have two-way active listening, and promote self-discovery.  They require strong coaching skills.  As allies, be curious to learn, rather than impart advice.  Refrain from finishing her sentence; just let her go.  Playback the exact words she said to you to ensure you heard her correctly.  As women, be clear on what you want, ask for feedback, and invite your ally to challenge you.

Trust is paramount.  Assume positive intent.  Create a safe place to share and learn from one another.

Our “Pivot Point” podcast kicks off season two this month.  This season, we are framing candid cross-gender conversations featuring diverse leaders’ perspectives.  Each episode features a contrasting, yet complementary male and female viewpoint on gender equality, showcasing these questions:

  • Women
    • What’s it like to be a woman in the workplace right now?
    • Let’s take #metoo off the table, what are the other behaviors holding women back?
    • How do you get your voice heard?
    • What is your organization doing to support gender equality?
  • Men
    • Post #metoo, what’s it like to be a man in the workplace right now?
    • For men wanting to be more of an ally to women, what do you recommend?
    • What is holding your organization back from gender equality?
    • What are you personally doing to support gender equality?

Tony’s story

In podcast season one, Tony Loyd shared his perspective on being a male ally.  He had just gone on vacation with his wife for three weeks.  They have been married 30+ years.  They knew each other inside and out.  Our so he thought.  After talking with me about our research, he asked his wife, “What is it like to be a woman right now?”  And, he learned more in 10 minutes than he did on 3 weeks of vacation together 24×7.

Allies, I dare you to do the same with a woman you care about personally and/or professionally.  You will learn more about her in 10 minutes than you ever did in years of conversations.  And, women I challenge you do the same.  If you do not have an ally, ask a man to be a mentor, sponsor, advocate, or supporter for you.  And if you have an ally, recognize him.  Ask him for feedback, or ask him “what it is like to be a man right now?”

Gender equality is a tough conversation, but it does not have to be.

That is why we have the Five Questions to Get the Gender Equality Conversation Document.  This is not easy.  This is the tough stuff leaders have to do.  Engage with your team.  Have a dialogue.  I promise you will not regret it.