Many times I ask myself why women prefer to behave like men in office. I have observed this often but never been able to put a finger on the reasons behind it. Why do women behave like men, turn rambo at work? Or, are they forced to display masculine traits given their environment?
Do women have to be rambo at work to succeed?
There is no doubt that in an equal society, women wouldn’t have to consider making changes. But a friend pointed out that ‘business isn’t a fair industry’ and that every woman deserves to succeed, even if it means ‘playing by their rules.’ At per the latest Fortune 500 list for 2019, women held 6.6 percent of the CEO roles.
What does that make you think?
Guys are in charge. To get to the top, women have to succeed in a world shaped by and for men. Men from a particular generation only respond to certain traits, behaviours which are male-based. Whether it’s fair or not, is it smart to adopt these characteristics when you think of the bigger picture?
Radhika Pradhan quit her high paying suited-booted HR job with a $20 bn business house just a year ago. She hasn’t been happier, says ‘feels like a woman’ again. And that has nothing to do with beauty parlours or kitty parties. Nudge her and she shares growing in a male dominated management set up make you ‘a bit of a man.’
“If you bring any emotions and feeling to the corporate table you will be looked at as weak. But if a man is using sentiment to get work done, speak to employees, he will be hailed and rewarded for putting his emotional quotient to use.”
All this aside of having their looks analysed, their decibel levels questions, their comments blown out of proportion among many other things that make the complex task of running a company even more difficult for any female leader.
Why Are We Questioning Her?
Tata Sons veteran R Gopalakrishnan has some experience of such workplace dilemmas that manager have. The Indian mind is rooted to believe what has been seen for years which is men lead more often than women and two, the challenge that it’s not enough to intellectually accept the idea of women leaders but culturally own it and ensure pragmatic execution of such notions in society. In his third book on management and leadership ‘What a CEO wants from you,’ Gopalakrishnan blames both men and women for allowing stereotypes. “Both men and women have the difficulties in culturally accepting the idea of women being on top. There are as though codes written in the minds of both.” As a society we may believe in the idea of a woman trailblazer but do we really culturally own it? Do we propagate it?
Even women seem to be in doubt. Praniti Raj is an investment banker and admits she feels the need to be among the boys, be like them, talk their language and even play their sport to stay ‘in the game.’
It makes me wonder if our behavior and attitude is strongly influenced by our perceptions of expectations from us. “There is a pressure to be like your male colleagues, clearly, and of course few succumb to it.”
Is the idea of leadership in India essentially a masculine notion? she asks even as Raj rues, ‘what’s the choice?
A former Wharton management professor Anne Cummings notes that men and women can do the same thing, but if they both act assertive, women are rated less effective because we expect men to do that.’
WOMEN AS LEADERS, TRAITS
- Women tend to take a more intuitive approach because they perceive people and events more deeply and with greater memory capacity.
- Women often will define the problem in broader terms and examine a wider array of potential factors before going into solution mode.
- Women tend to personalize and are more inclined to talk through the issue to reach understanding.
- Women want to talk out problems and men want to dive right into solving them.
Isn’t the reality a bit different? Women are fantastic leaders but they are in the image of ‘king. While this isn’t intended to question whether women can or cannot lead but the Indian corporate system associates the position with the idea of ‘kingness’ of leadership. And so many gender traits simply exist in theory but are most often not considered at workplaces.
As much as progressive organizations would like to believe that there are no gender biases, within the realms of everyday work, it does creep in. If you did a study the human resources functions in any organization, at the junior levels, you will find that women outnumber men. However, in leadership roles in the same function, the reverse is true.
Now We Are Busy Blaming Me Too
These days the conversation about promoting women at the workplace has a new highlight, that of MeToo. Although this progressive movement has brought immeasurable positive change, in companies, we are seeing an awkward, unsaid reaction. A hushed conversation suggests that this is being use as a potential threat to women’s advancement to senior leadership, as men have become fearful of forging professional relationships with female colleagues.
According to a LeanIn survey, and senior male leaders are more than three times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior-level woman than a junior-level guy.
What Will Propel Change?
We need to be more convinced that having women on the team is no longer the ‘nice thing to do’ and it isn’t even about being gender sensitive. What we need today are gender invariant workspaces. Women too need to explore and create a new idea of a woman leader who doesn’t have to be a ‘man in charge’. It should be perfectly cool to be compassionate, vulnerable. Leadership needs to get away from the tribal notion of patriarchy.
There is new respect but there remains a huge challenge for gender. Yes there is a broader acceptance but when it comes to taking orders, delegation, issues remain stressed. What we also need is a change in the conversation code of women leaders both by male and female leaders. How can we effectively address this issue and encourage women to be true to themselves? I would like to know your thoughts.
The Office Feminist picks issues that matter to women at the workplace.
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