We’ve come a long way as a society in when it comes to gender equality. So, why are we still telling women that they should act like men in the workplace?
First of all, of course there’s no such a thing as “acting like a man” or “acting like a woman.” But the stereotypes persist. And some employers have subtle ways of getting the message across. Others are pretty overt about it. Either way you cut it, this approach is terrible. It’s not good for women, or men, or for businesses.
“So, why is so much of the business advice for women out there to…well…act like a man? Why have so many performance reviews that I have received over the course of my career pushed me in that direction? Take a seat at the table. Project confidence. Get rid of the up-speak. Take on p&l roles instead of support functions. Raise your hand for jobs you don’t think you’re fully prepared for because you know the guys are. Be more forceful, ” Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-founder of Ellevest, explained in a recent article on the subject. “In other words, conform to how the guys are acting.”
Many women can relate to receiving this kind of messaging at work in one way or another. Some are dubbed too emotional when men behaving in similar ways might be labeled as passionate. Others might have been called bossy along the way — a word seldom used to describe a man’s professional behavior.
Here are just a few important reasons we should stop sending women these kinds of messages right away:
1. It’s largely a problem of perception.
If a boss sees one of their female employees as being too emotional or aggressive, they should start by examining their perception closely and considering whether or not it’s really true. Would they feel the same way about a male employee who was acting similarly? Comments like these say more about the person hurling them than they do about the subject of the attack. And, perhaps the person with the perception problem is actually the one who needs to adjust their thinking and behavior.
2. Diversity is valuable.
Having a diverse company isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s what’s best for business. Smart employers know that bringing together a multitude of perspectives and points of view is crucial for innovation, creativity, and effective problem-solving. It’s foolish to try to eliminate this diversity by asking women to embrace more traditionally masculine attributes. Businesses benefit from respecting and encouraging different points of view.
3. It costs companies money.
When women are told to act more like men at work, in one way or another, the bottom line suffers. There is a cost that comes with silencing diverse perspectives, as mentioned above. Additionally, there is a financial burden when women leave an organization and need to be replaced. Also, when a business losses out on the female perspective, they also miss out on being able to attract female customers as effectively.
“You need go no further than my old industry, Wall Street and the investing industry, to see the impact,” Krawcheck wrote. “86% of the industry’s financial advisors are male; the industry is built around the concepts of ‘outperforming,’ ‘beating the market,’ ‘picking winners;’ and its brand symbol is a bull. All very male. The result? Women don’t invest as much as men do, and the industry is thus missing a significant source of business.”
4. It makes the business look bad.
If companies want to be seen as employers of choice in 2017, it would behoove them to get with modern times and eliminate these outdated practices. Telling a woman that she needs to act more like man in order to be successful sends a powerful message about the business itself. And, in 2017, it’s a message that might motivate workers, men and women, to start looking for elsewhere for employment opportunities.
5. Women’s energy is better spent on other things.
It’s exhausting to try to be something, anything, that you’re not. When women are advised to alter themselves at work, they are also being asked to spend their time and energy making that adjustment. This process is a waste of women’s resources, especially because making the change wouldn’t be to anyone’s benefit anyway. Allowing women to be themselves and direct their time and energy toward their work makes a lot more sense.
6. It discourages risk-taking.
Professionals tend to generate better ideas when they are working in a culture that allows them to feel comfortable being themselves. Taking risks is important in business. If workers feel criticized in this way, they might be less likely to share their ideas. If companies wish to encourage innovation and creativity, they need to help workers feel comfortable and respected. This will support their ability to do their best work.
To learn the truth about women, work, and equal pay, read PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap.
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