How Leaders Can Create Lasting Change For Women In The Workplace

How Leaders Can Create Lasting Change For Women In The Workplace

At DrivenWoman, we envision a world where women are not afraid to share their ideas and where feminine qualities are in balance with the masculine; equally in demand, represented and rewarded across organisations and management levels. The world has long experienced the damage of the overtly masculine work cultures, but it is unrealistic to think that the transition to more balanced practices will happen without a conscious effort.

Ambitious gender balance targets and review of workplace policies reduce bias and improve the pipeline to support women. Whilst these practices are providing the framework for change, the underlying challenges are more problematic. To create faster, lasting change and meaningful results leaders must be willing to promote the feminine, not just women.

The feminine is a set of naturally occurring abilities and values, a way of flourishing. It is carried and can be expressed by both women and men, and manifests itself throughout society, in life and in business. The connection to the feminine was sadly lost long ago when a masculine system was more convenient for the sake of human development later developing into masculine dominance and patriarchy. 

The world is waking up to reconnecting with the feminine, but policy changes, gender quotas and D&I initiatives alone can’t bring her back. Women feel confused and overwhelmed being asked to show up when they haven’t yet re-discovered what they have lost, their natural feminine way of expressing themselves. Women still find themselves in an era where the feminine is repeatedly being ostracised.

It’s time to give Verna Myers’ excellent quote an update:

“Diversity is being invited to the party,
inclusion is being asked to dance,
-- empowerment is being able to choose your own songs!”

Empowerment only happens when women find the confidence to play from their own songbook. There’s an inner conflict when women are expected and encouraged to embark on more ambitious careers before they have had a chance to discover what it is that they want, how they would set up their own party and what songs they love to play.

Just because women are invited to the party and asked to dance doesn’t mean they enjoy it. The DJ is still playing old records. Many women haven’t yet discovered their own favourite songs because they weren’t introduced to new music nor had the freedom to explore. They join the dance floor, but feel uneasy about the whole situation without knowing why.

This uneasiness is backed up by research. Women leave their positions at a far higher rate than men and this rate increases as women move up the corporate ladder.

There’s a tendency to explain this by the motherhood penalty or the pay gap, but the truth is that many women have simply lost themselves in environments that operate with the masculine code.

Anna, a former director in a financial firm, says:

“There was a culture of unhealthy rivalry, which was not conducive to genuine inner growth, healthy collaboration and the balance that I was craving.”

Anna was longing for the feminine way and wanted to be accepted with her naturally occurring qualities. Instead she was expected to show up in an overtly masculine manner in order to succeed.

We see this all the time at DrivenWoman, a global empowerment platform, women are exhausted performing to the masculine standard, desperate to re-discover their natural way of being. We even see something that can be described as terror of expressing themselves and being visible. It’s easy to dismiss it as lack of confidence, but it comes down to a profound fear of showing up as their authentic feminine selves. This is often deeply rooted beyond their current working environment.

The ‘feminine way’ has generally been punishable for women, either in a form of ridicule or dismissal or worse. Companies have to show compassion and have patience for women’s journeys and not expect to flick a switch and turn women’s confidence ‘on’.

Covid-19 and lockdown has exaggerated this process. As the everyday race to the top has been interrupted women have had a chance to re-evaluate what success means to them. This means many women are re-thinking their careers.

A new report finds 25% of women are considering downsizing or quitting their careers as a result of pandemic-related pressures, and according to another study a whopping 61% of women say they are planning a career pivot post pandemic.

This development should be a real wake up call for companies. Women are no longer putting up with outdated expectations, but are ready to define their future on their own terms. Many women are taking a holistic approach to their wellbeing and want success on an emotional, physical and spiritual level.

There’s real urgency for action. Companies must respond quickly unless they want to lose out on their female talent, miss their D&I targets and be seen as employers who don’t care.

A recent study by McKinsey predicts taking action now to advance gender equality could be adding $13 trillion to global GDP in 2030. Taking action only after the crisis has subsided (rather than now) would reduce the potential opportunity by more than $5 trillion. The cost of that delay amounts to three-fourths of the total global GDP we could potentially lose to COVID-19 this year.

The first step in the transition to a fully balanced and empowered workforce is to acknowledge and understand the different qualities of the feminine and the masculine. Policy changes and recruitment practices pave the way for a more fair and equal workplace that in itself is something every business must strive for if they are to address the problems of today’s diverse world.

Companies who want to bring out the full potential of women must go deeper, they must provide support, tools and safe spaces for women encouraging them to discover their own definition of success whilst staying with their careers. Then there must be a genuine invitation for expressing those authentic qualities without fear of judgment.

Michelle, a portfolio manager in a financial firm, sums it up:

“Operating in a very male dominated career of finance, I learnt to “go it alone” and didn’t think about needing a “tribe”.

Companies should take a good look at changing their value system, embracing and encouraging both the feminine and the masculine. Without a top down change, a bottom up change won't have much impact.

Many companies still try to ‘fix’ their gender balance. That’s a very masculine way of solving problems and that’s why it is not working for women. Women don’t need fixing, women need a space where they are encouraged and rewarded for showing up as their true selves, and being able to share their talents and creative ideas without fear. Women want to be reborn.

The good news is that women are stepping into their feminine power all around the world. We see thousands of these ‘rebirths’ happening all the time in the DrivenWoman Lifeworking program.  This is what companies can do to support women to find their feminine way:

  • Provide safe spaces where a story can be told and women feel safe to show vulnerability and discuss their fears and frustrations without a fear of judgement.
  • Support women with tools and activities that help them step outside of their comfort.
    Bring women together to support each other. Women thrive together!
  • Provide support mechanisms that include accountability and learning tools to make progress.
  • Encourage women to define what success looks like for them and don’t penalise them if it’s not what you had planned.
  • Use mechanisms that can support women throughout organisational levels, not just leadership.
    Give this process time.

 

- Miisa Mink - Founder and Chief Doer DrivenWoman

DrivenWoman is a social platform connecting women who want to achieve their goals and dreams.  Thousands of women around the world have joined our program and are achieving their life goals supported by one another.  Join our FREE community the Doers Tribe.  To find out more about our programmes for corporations click here.

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