July 23, 2014

3 Things Women Can Do to Ignite Change in the Workplace. ~ Belinda MJ Brown

woman desk office work

There is a difference in vision between men and women that is not taught in any school.

At an early age I discovered that women and men “had” to compete—at least that what I was told, and awkwardly for my friends, I chose as a woman to compete against men in male dominated industries.

18 years, two changes of career and a move abroad later, I shifted my focus to partner with organizations and specifically with women helping them to be who they are and to own their feminine leadership.

A few months ago while reading an article written by Dr. Cindy Wahler in Forbes online called “Retention of Female Executives – How to Get it Right,” I began to look at organizations with a new perspective.

Many companies are currently struggling with realizing and adapting to the differences in male and female mentalities in the workplace. Dr. Cindy Wahler pointed out something I knew as true for two decades as I lived it in male dominated industries, such as automotive and laundry machinery and business:

“Men begin the process with the bottom line and engage in tactics. These tactics dictate the approach on how they need to grow their business, build client relationships, and be more competitive. Women on the other hand work first to build inclusion; relationships both internal and external are cultivated as the platform from which negotiations are then launched. The process of discussing the merits of an approach, sorting out who does what and when, as well as determining the best combination of skills is an approach that is articulated out loud. A collaborative process then drives consensus, agreed upon roles, and ongoing dialogue.”

This difference has caused many women executives to feel a sense of isolation and that the company’s decision makers are not paying attention. This causes many skilled women executives to leave their jobs at the peak of their careers either to go to the non-profit sector or to look for the organization that will align with their values and give them a sense of purpose.

Even when it promotes diversity, the Workplace can still be a hostile place.

While women represent 51.5 percent of management positions in organizations, it feels that we are often “checking boxes” because it is the right thing to do, rather than truly empowering female leaders to embrace their feminine traits in the business arena.

All too often, organizations assess the lack of stability of women executives to a ‘female trait.’ Rarely do they question the fact that the culture and values of the organization might be outdated and not represent their workforce or even their clients anymore. Organizations (people) are generally afraid of change and believe that something terrible will happen if they take a leap of faith to do something different.

Many of us do not realize that an attempt to maintain the status quo holds many women back, which in turn limits the creativity and ability of an organization to innovate. Moreover, we often “push” women to stay at a job that makes them unhappy.

The organizational culture sticks and women often do their best to ‘fit’ the broken mold. Progress has been made in terms of numbers and regulations; yet females stretch themselves every day, often compromising their values, their vision and their health to keep going and remain engaged. What is important is to be able to identify factors that are causing disconnection or dissatisfaction in organizations as those can be detrimental to an organization’s well-being, to the female workforce level of engagement. If overlooked, this can cost enterprises millions of dollars.

It is that simple! So you will ask me why organizations bringing more women in their ranks do not tackle the root cause of the issue and continue to apply what I call a Band Aid on a wooden leg.

Hostility is not intentional and the status quo is convenient as it fulfills our one of our fears and the greatest challenge of organizations: Change.

The face of corporate America has changed by force; organizational culture can change by choice as well.

And now what?

It’s about time to utilize human capital consciously and respectfully by exploring women’s visions and creating new organizational culture with shared values that will enable women to bring their creativity, broader perspective and compassion to work.

Here are three things we as women can do to ignite change in the workplace:

1. Re-define success on our own terms.

Know what success truly looks like for you. Ask the following question: what would be success for me if I had no religion, no parent, no career and I have not to worry about money or time?

2. Own our feminine leadership by being authentic and bringing our vision and original ideas wherever we go.

3. Live to leave a legacy. This is certainly one of the most powerful way to live as it means to experience each moment of our lives in a purposeful way.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Kheel Center at Flickr 

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Belinda MJ Brown