A few days ago I was invited to moderate a talk about Women in Leadership at The TopTalents Event. Four successful women argued with personal examples that women are capable to do the same things men can and they should feel free to decide how they should live their lives.
Their answers seemed common sense to me. I never actually felt that being a woman is an obstacle in any way. I know there is a lot of talk about feminism nowadays and there are a lot of campaigns but, accepting the invitation, I wondered if this was still a real issue.
I decided to read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean in” – who writes that she didn’t think that gender inequality is still a thing either. Until she experienced it on her own skin. There’s still a lot of pressure from society regarding women’s careers.
Even if it’s not “in your face” discrimination, even the pressure to be a “good mom” by staying home taking care of the children is a difficult thing to handle. “How can you do them all?” most of the times implies that “you’re not doing any of the things right”. And a stay-at-home dad is seen as less of a man so it might be hard to find a male real support.
What’s surprising is that most of the time it’s not the men who discriminate women, it’s the women who sabotage themselves: they don’t negotiate salaries, they tend to apply less for promotions, they choose to be stay-at-home moms thinking they’ll be judged by society if they don’t and so on.
Based on my short research I think “feminism” is still a thing because of two biases that perpetuate the lack of self confidence in women.
1. The confirmation bias
We hear a stereotype (like: “women are less good at math than men are”) and because of this thinking bias we rather look for information that confirms the stereotype, than for information that contradicts it. We notice more when the stereotype confirms thus perpetuating it.
Solution: Start looking for clues that contradict the stereotype. Prove it wrong!
2. Self-fulfilling prophecy
When people are expected to act in a certain way they would eventually do exactly that, they will start imitating the stereotype, again perpetuating it.
Solution: Set higher goals for yourself. Be brave! What do you think a man would respond to the specific situation?
I think it’s great we’re talking about these issues. They empower women and they make both women and men realise the way we perceive genders, even at an unconscious level, and the expectations we have of a man or of a woman and how that can effect both of us, limiting our options, nurturing feelings of guilt and confusion.
Why is this important for organisations?
- Because studies show that “teams with an equal gender mix perform better than male-dominated and female-dominated teams in terms of sales, profits and earnings per share.”
- Because women might be even better leaders than men are & they bring a different perspective.
- Because happier women are better performing employees.
See more in the below presentation – click the picture.