Have you ever wondered…”What will it take to get heard, to get ahead, to make a dent in the inequality of gendered hiring, promotion and pay practices?”
I think about it, read about it, coach about it and talk about it all the time. The thing is — I think you and I, together CAN! There are many opinions about how to accomplish it, including my own. I like to read and consider many of them. I am writing my second book on the topic.
A dear friend of mine sent me an article that presented a different viewpoint, one that I think is insightful, yet highly unlikely to be successful at this time (in my humble opinion!).
The NY Times article is titled: Enough Leaning In. Let’s Tell Men to Lean Out. It is written by Ruth Whippman. Some of her points that are interesting and worth pondering.
“At the nexus of feminism and self-help lies the promise that if we can only learn to state our needs more forcefully — to “lean in” and stop apologizing and demand a raise and power pose in the bathroom before meetings and generally act like a ladyboss (though not a regular boss of course; that would be unladylike) — everything from the pay gap to mansplaining to the glass ceiling would all but disappear. Women! Be more like men. Men, as you were.”
She goes on to argue this is the wrong approach as it reinforces the patriarchal stereotypes of what makes someone valuable and powerful. The default in today’s culture has us look to men for what is valued and what traits equal leadership and power. Instead of changing our behavior, we need to have men challenge their views and alter their behavior and ‘lean out’.
While, in principle, I 100% agree with her, I also think we need to start with where we are and take the ground we can. From a position where women hold less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEO positions, hold ~14% of leadership positions globally and in the United States make $.79/$1.00 when compared to men (if you are Caucasian — it is $.64 and $.58/$1.00 if you are African American or Latinx respectively), we need to shift that paradigm first before we have enough power and ‘listening’ to alter the way men act independently.
Here’s what I know from my research and from years of coaching tens of thousands of people: Behavior changes when there is a perceived need to change it. People, in general, like to be comfortable and as such, continue to behave in their own routine way. Only when they see that the risk to change outweighs the familiar, will they alter it. I simply do not see men, at this point in time, seeing the need — thus I don’t think they will willingly simply ‘lean out’.
That is not to say we cannot end the gender inequality until they do. I think we can. I trust us. If we do make changes in our behavior, we can alter the paradigm and shift the power and positions held by women. We can alter the gender gap. Then (and during this shift), men’s behavior will naturally change, as the need will be there.
I am going to be writing more about this, and specifically how we alter our behavior and shift the gap in the next blog post, so don’t miss it.