"Women who take on informal leadership roles are going against the gender-based grain by behaving assertively and decisively – qualities more traditionally associated with men…Men are traditionally defined by words like aggressive, forceful, independent and decisive. Women, on the other hand, are stereotypically expected to be kind, helpful, sympathetic and concerned about others…But, despite the widespread notion of women as social specialists, perceptions of the network positions of women will be distorted because of the expectation that brokerage is men’s work.”
~ Phyllis Korkki, from the New York Times article The Leaders Who Aren’t Always Followed.
It finally makes sense. This article helped explain a lot about the role many women are given as informal leaders, in roles where they are not managers but expected to influence organizational or departmental change, then are subject to the hypocrisy of gender bias.
We’re told we’re empowered to make decisions, then torn down for being “difficult”.
We’re asked to come in and make big changes, then pulled aside for being “disruptive”.
We’re hired for our knowledge, yet when we voice our expertise, we’re thrown under the bus.
I’ve watched this happen over and over again with so many strong, smart women – kickass women who are unafraid to be wholly themselves and not roll over, “lean in” and try to imitate traditional male behaviors in the workplace, or otherwise feel the need to change their awesomeness to fit into the clique of women adapting to the norms of the typical cultures where women are told to mimic the style of men in order to be successful.
I have witnessed it first hand as well as dealt with it myself when I was in the corporate world, watching both men and women who claim to celebrate diversity, encourage free thinking and push innovation in their organizations then go right ahead and discriminate, punish or otherwise piss all over those who think differently and aren’t obsessed with playing the people-pleasing 'good girl' role.
“Women who display competence are too often seen — by both men and women — as unlikable, unfeminine, aggressive, conniving and untrustworthy. Although some competent women may get credit for their achievements, men who may be less accomplished are seen as likable and are more likely to be hired or promoted. Such perceptions are a major roadblock for women as they try to climb the career ladder.”
~ Rosalind C. Barnett and Caryl Rivers, from the LA Times article, For women, it’s not a glass ceiling but a plugged pipeline.
So…what are you doing to change this in your work?
What are you doing to open your mind as a leader to those who think and behave differently from you yet are equally effective at bringing in results? What are you doing to call out those who discriminate against the awesome forces of nature that are women? What are you doing to assess your own biases?
Are you going to change the world or are you going to go along with the status quo?
PS - it's all interconnected. Ask yourself this question not just about your attitudes towards those who identify as female, but also Black and Brown individuals.