At my first job out of undergrad I was described as being “incredibly well dressed, very direct, and often disruptive during meetings for asking too many questions” by a female manager, and “fun to work with, well presented, yet overly cautious” by a male manager during my annual performance review. I did end up getting my bonus but I knew there was a disconnect when neither manager mentioned that I outperformed my peers in acquiring new clients or that I worked countless hours mending relationships with those ready to jump ship. My female manager was the only female of the 30 or so executives at the company. None of the executives were devious but they did in fact wear Prada. Conforming to the posh dressing culture of “Prada or Nada” made me stand out from the many women at the bottom of the company, but I wanted to understand how to advance into a C-Suite based on merit. What I know now is that navigating the corporate landscape, with a polished look of course, is only the first step up the ladder. Advancement at that company, and for most right now, isn’t about breaking into the old boys’ club, it’s about understanding Gender Intelligence.
In the New York Times Article “Learning to Love Criticism”, Tara Mohr examines a Fortune.com study that found 76 percent of the negative feedback given to women, in workplace performance reviews, included some kind of personality criticism, while only 2 percent of men’s critical reviews included negative personality comments. Mohr believes that if a woman wants to do substantive work of any kind, then she’s going to be criticized and with comments not just about her work but also about herself. The fundamental shift for women happens, she states, when women internalize the fact that all substantive work brings both praise and criticism. In addition, Mohr explains that women can also benefit from interpreting feedback as providing information about the preferences and point of view of the person giving the feedback, rather than information about themselves.
To help ignite these paradigm-shifting insights, global leader in gender diversity Barbara Annis believes that training in Gender Intelligence, an understanding of and appreciation for the naturally occurring characteristics that distinguish men and women beyond the obvious biological and cultural, to include attitudinal and behavioral differences, is the solution. Annis believes that companies must apply a gender lens when advancing diversity and inclusiveness so they don’t overlook the gender behavior patterns and issues that are consistent across race and ethnicity. With more than 30 years of experience in the field, Annis found that organizations that practice Gender Intelligence and sustain a culture of inclusiveness, grow in their global competitiveness, secure and retain the best talent, make better strategic decisions, produce more relevant products and services that mirror the market, and, as a result, achieve superior financial results.
I agree with Mohr’s conceptual and Annis’ theoretical framework as they confirm what was and wasn’t happening at my old company. Simply having gender diversity is not enough for companies to remain competitive; companies must understand Gender intelligence to do so. If successfully advancing women in your workplace is important to you, then I encourage you to begin this conversation there…and don’t forget your favorite Prada footwear!
Until next time…