In September of this year, we were fortunate enough to have Michelle P. King join us for a live webinar, sharing her insights from seven years of researching gender equality. What makes Michelle such an amazing ambassador for women in all positions across the globe is her ability to present a potentially divisive topic in such an inclusive and positive way.
For those of you, who were not able to join us, we wanted to summarise and reflect on some of her main points.
‘We are hardwired for inequality’
Hearing Michelle confirm that most organisations are set up for inequality to continue benefitting those that display dominant male behaviour, was a relief.
For many years, I felt that even our traditional education system was set up to ensure that we adapt to enter organisations that reward behaviours that are not aligned with fundamental psychological human needs, let alone allowing women to be true to their strengths and qualities. However, it was difficult to pinpoint whether it was just what I felt or whether there was some truth in what I observed over the years. Michelle’s research shows that inequality is part of who we “have become” and that it will take a conscious effort to acknowledge the part each one of us might play in keeping it alive.
Michelle highlights that we all need to disrupt our own denial to help create a world in which diversity and equality can become real.
‘There is no right way to be a woman at work’
The premise of Michelle’s book “The Fix” is to help us understand that women do not need to fix themselves. There is after all nothing wrong with us as women – instead, there is often something inherently wrong with the culture within the workplace, requiring us to become somebody else or try to work out how to be different to succeed.
However, adding women to leadership teams who show up as men in a quest to fit in does not do much for diversity.
It does not provide a different voice to problem solving, nor does it recognise women as adding value, given that “she” just ends up being one of the boys. Controversial, I know, but the real value of adding to diversity as part of leadership is being true to one’s values, preferences and even vulnerabilities, not mimicking a behaviour that will keep women or other minorities ‘small’.
‘Men and women benefit equally from a culture of equality’
The more diverse an organisation, the higher profitability, creativity, and innovation.
A challenging statement perhaps, but Michelle pointed out that in a company with a culture of equality and diversity, employees are six times more likely to have a creative idea, women are six times more likely to advance and men are two times more likely to advance. An inclusive and supportive culture of equality therefore is an important component of a future proof workplace and benefits all within it.
The question is whether the leaders in your business drive the values and behaviour in such a way that it supports ideas, diversity, and positive change?
As difficult as it might be, the only way organisations will feel the need to change is if we all play our part in challenging leaders to drive a culture of equality for the benefit of all, not just a few.
So how do we do that? A great tip Michelle shared was to not get hung up on processes and policies, but to live in the moment and call out behaviour we do not feel serves the greater good. Difficult to do, no doubt, but it does make sense that we all have a part to play, rather than be passengers in the backseat with an opinion, but no desire to act.
We hope that our summary is giving you a reason to reflect on your own bias perhaps or the culture of the workplace you are part of.
To watch the full interview with Michelle, visit our YouTube channel.
Until next month,
Managing Director WiFB ANZ