As feminism and female empowerment continues to swirl in light of the #MeToo and slow drip of harassment scandals, there is an emerging viewpoint that is oftentimes unacknowledged as everyone encourages women to break through to become the #BossLady.
Full stop: Younger women need to stop looking at the current roster of female leaders for guidance on achieving leadership roles.
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Silicon Valley’s Marissa Mayer, or IBM’s Ginni Rometty aren’t the shining perfect mentors Millennial women need or should seek at this point in their lives. The problem is that while women have been kept back from advancing for a variety of reasons and circumstances, those that have elevated to visibility have only done so under the paradigm of a male-dominated world. They played by the rules set by someone else. What is needed now is to completely wipe the slate clean and start over by incorporating the needs and preferences from both genders.
It may seem overly simplified, but the workforce was first designed around men. Visit Wikipedia for a complete and thorough history of the Industrial Revolution. The basic takeaway is that women only entered the picture after this framework was established and set in stone. This means everything that is just assumed as the status quo – like starting work at 9am or the supervisory network – was developed with only men in mind.
(That said, women have done some notable work carving out preferences that benefit their gender, yet the overall structure still remains male-centric.)
Now, even though most of the current generation of both men and women were raised to be equals, it has been a rude awakening to realize that workplace equality remains rooted in the days of yesteryear when women fetched coffee and men brought home the bacon. A majority of women (56%) and 43% of men attribute outdated biases and stereotypes as the second largest factor impacting gender inequality in the workplace, only outranked by pay inequality, according to a recent survey by staffing firm Randstad US.
Hence, today’s problem is that Millennial women want to revolutionize a world that they weren’t factored into in the first place. Sheryl Sandberg, for instance, rose to the top because men in power most likely saw her as the most non-threatening female among their options. This doesn’t mean she isn’t noteworthy or admirable, but it means she played by the rules set by men in order to move towards the front of their world.
The majority of companies do not appear to be implementing mentorship or leadership programs geared toward women; only 28% of all employees – both men and women – surveyed by Randstad US say their employers offer such training.
“The very concept of a glass ceiling is broken, it only exists if women agree to the rules of growth that men established. Agreeing to it keeps women trapped in a false image of their potential” says scientist and entrepreneur Heidi Dangelmeirer. “The glass ceiling keeps females locked in a paradigm where men hand out the permission slips to female progress.”
Even today, only 31% women feel they have as many or more opportunities than men do at their workplace, says Randstad US.
“Teaching females to be like men will block the very knowledge she needs to lead humanity upward,” says Dangelmeirer. “Having money and titles could help yes, but that will not give us the tools or intell to live a life of happiness or create a world that is sustainable, or that our children will feel happy and realized.”
Diversity and equality are huge business issues, and they have an impact on a company’s financials: people want to buy from and work for a fair company; diverse teams are key for high-performing companies.
Yet, only 19% of men believe a lack of female representation on leadership teams has the greatest impact on gender inequality, as more than half (52%) believe their company has a good representation of female leaders, reports Randstad US. Men are nearly three times less likely than women to say they would switch employers for greater gender equality (25% vs. 80%).
While women continue to be paid less than men, overall, 87% of men surveyed feel their female colleagues are comparably paid; plus 37% of male workers agree they’d leave a job if they learned a female counterpart was making 25% more.
While #MeToo has raised general awareness about workplace relationships, most men still feel there isn’t a major problem with inequality. Two in three men (66%) “strongly or completely agree” that they’re treated the same way as others in the workplace, and 42% believe women have as many or more opportunities as men do, says Randstad US. Only one in five male respondents (20%) agree their workplace could do more to promote gender equality.
Dangelmeirer, whose background is rooted in quantum physics and artificial intelligence, points out that even outside of the business world, women weren’t factored into developing science and models that create performance and measure intelligence. “If we buy into that concept, [we] will always need male approval. But who is to say that his science, growth and intelligence models are optimal or even correct?”
Her organization GirlApproved is attempting to “fact check” these stereotypes to develop new guiding points that incorporate both men and women input, albeit with an emphasis of girl voices.
“Humans are genetically predisposed to adapt to our environment,” she says. “Unfortunately, in this modern consumer-driven world, that can lead us to adapting to a situation that makes us feel inadequate and, even worse, lose touch with our innate needs. As a culture, we develop collective blindspots that allow us to tolerate manufactured tensions. These tensions rarely reach the conscious-thought level, let alone get verbalized. When products fail, we believe that we are the problem.”
To that end, her group worked with Unilever’s Axe brand to reposition the haircare line from its overly macho messaging towards a more feminine dimension, without talking to them about hair as women would. By doing so, Axe succeeding in crafting a new male category. Another project with Walmart on behalf of its LEI junior brand that appointed Taylor Swift as its spokesperson reversed the clothing’s profits from operating at a loss to $150 million in sales in under six months.
Another solution is that both sexes want training around unconscious bias, reports Randstad US. As of now, only 30% of workers say they receive training on unconscious bias and 35% of both genders say their company seeks employee feedback on biases experienced in the workplace.
Millennial women should also seek lateral alliances with those wanting to completely reinvent the workforce. Rather than carve niches into something that has already been built, they should just build their own castle.
Dangielmaier, for her part, is taking a more scientific approach to developing new answers. Her group is working on introducing new technology to model the 96% of the subconscious intuitive mind that male-science can not.
“We accept man’s system of economics, design, science as truth, [but] we never independently measured it, never tested it, never proposed an alternative, and never systematically – as females – mobilized to upgrade his thinking, tools, models and metrics,” she says. “The bottom line is if we want to empower females, that just cannot happen unless we challenge the underlying paradigms of science, [as well as the] metrics of the economics, design and business it was built on. They are flawed and designed without us. It is not fighting over the failing system that will liberate us, but creating a new system, this one led by females.”
By Larissa Faw
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