10/8/13

Women Leaders: What we want but can't have

Picture courtesy of ASU women honor STEM role models 
Today, I commented in the group Connect: Professional Women's Network, Powered by Citi on What would you like to see from your female leaders?:

Although I agree with the general desire to have more women in leadership, especially in STEM fields, I think it is more important to highlight the specific qualities that we desire from women in leadership. It has been a long road to gender equality and I believe we are now at a crossroads. Traditionally, women have worked their way into executive STEM positions by being a hellcat. This aggressive behavior has done much to break the walls down, to show that we have the capacity for brutal, calculated, process driven decision making. We have proven that we can "stack up" against our male counterparts. Advantage has been gained and recognized. I believe this is why there is an increase in female management in departments that are appreciate our communication skills, like HR, Customer Service, Healthcare and Sales. Our culture, now having experienced some improved interactions, are demanding an increase in service quality. This is our next biggest opportunity.

I am have witnessed several women climb the ranks in IT, Sales & Accounting departments within the Education, Healthcare and Finance industries. Upon entry into leadership, many of them take on the role of a scornful mother. I have personally experienced their ice cold reprimand, which appears to be heightened by fear. Fear of not meeting goals set by the executive membership, peers or themselves. This tends to migrate to frustration and anger towards employees who do not meet translated performance goals. And women, believing that attainment of these goals requires them to whip their troops into submission, become disrespected. This behavior only produces marginal results and they end up portraying themselves with an unappealing image of being moody, difficult and uncaring. It is no wonder why we desire mentorship from women in leadership. We know that sharing knowledge and investing effort in each other is a positive and productive experience.

Personally, even though I understand the intricacies of traditional large-organization, management and political structure, it no longer appeals to me. I now believe strongly in the Open Organization where decisions are made by rough consensus of a working group, actions are transparent and accountable and vision is maintained
collectively. Leaders will still arise in this type of format, usually by way of recognized and apparent skill. However, the sense of pyramid power is consistently squashed. Some of these concepts, like those of Daniel Pink, have been creeping into the corporate mind. Although, it has not received significant traction because corporations are hooked on protecting this notion of intellectual property instead of product/service value.

So, what do I think will break the glass ceiling of gender-biased leadership?

Remodel the structure.

----------------------------------------
Additional Reading: