Diversify Yourself to Success (Women Make the World Go ‘Round, Too!)
Interview with UK-based consultant, Dr. Marc Lawn, on gender stereotypes, the value of diversity, and finding one’s own voice in the world.
[Editor’s Note: I first connected with Marc on Twitter via a global tweet chat on women’s economic empowerment, hosted by the Knowledge Gateway, a UN-managed open global community for knowledge mobilization, innovation and partnerships for women’s economic empowerment. Recognizing the critically important role men play in bridging and advancing the dialogue on gender equity and women’s empowerment, I invited Marc to share some of his own perspectives and advice on women’s leadership from the male point of view.]
Too many stereotypes in the modern world mean that women and men still play too many traditional roles, yet we do not recognize that with few exceptions women are as capable, if not more, than men.
Women bring diversity to a world screaming out for change. The sense of calm that a mother, for example, can bring to a room of executives is profound. Their differing attitudes towards risk are another. Women are far more considerate than men, they take in more data, yet they can also show greater strength of character to ‘go the mile’ when they find themselves in a position of having to defend the answer in their minds.
My personal mantra has always been, ‘Hire for attitude and train for skill’. This transcends any of the accepted norms. Teams need diversity of thinking and style to work. If you are all the same carbon copies then you will ‘appear to have harmony’ but you will be unable to make effective decisions.
Women are naturally better managers. Women have a genuine interest in people, their hopes and aspirations. Men are vaguely aware that someone else might be in the same room. I know I am generalizing, but I am trying to make this simple point: different is different, not right or wrong, just different.
There is no perfect personality. We all ‘rub up’ someone the wrong way no matter how hard we try, and the only way we can improve is by getting a wider set of diverse perspectives when it comes to decision making. By considering the ages, backgrounds, gender and the many other aspects of diversity, we can better compete in an ever globalizing world.
Men do need to let go of the bravado, the testosterone, and accept that sometimes, no matter how hard it may feel, women may be the best people to do a particular role or task, even if it falls outside of traditional stereotypes.
For example, I read a report in the UK recently that said 69% of people would be unhappy if a woman mechanic fixed their car v. a man. Oddly, if you think about manual dexterity (just as one lens), then logic would dictate that a woman, generally, could well be better at certain tasks for sure.
We cannot ignore that stereotypes exist in the world. As a man I am not proud of this fact, but it is something I must face. I would be ignorant not to think that I have my own prejudices which are ‘normal’ to me. However, I have a duty to society to ensure that I do not allow them to get in the way of the best decisions.
Women need more support. They need supporters and mentors. From a man’s perspective, women are far better natural communicators, they are better facilitators, and on the whole they are far less ‘irrational’ than men.
Men must play a role in breaking the stereotypes. Men need to show the leadership qualities that they believe they possess and provide opportunity where they can. Men must share support networks for the greater good, and they must share ideas and thoughts where possible – in a two-way exchange. This isn’t the time or place to lecture, but to truly engage and understand.
I have never wasted an hour or $5 on two cups of coffee to understand more about another human being. The experience makes me richer. I learn and I learn to appreciate. Everyone’s perspective on life is critically important.
For women who are struggling to find their voice, find new ways, and if they don’t work, find even more new ways…. Ultimately, you will find some way of getting yourself heard. I have a saying, ‘I hate to lose so I always have a plan B, C, D, E etc….’ You need to do that same. Some things are just more difficult, but no less important or worthy. Timing and message is everything. Find a way to convey what you want to say in a way that your recipient finds compelling and easy to understand.
If you never try you will never know. I have tried and failed at many things in life; it’s what makes me who I am. I also find myself blessed with some amazing friends and supporters. Find these people in your life; find people whom you trust that will ‘argue’ with you, not just agree, and you will soon begin to see the benefits.
Remember, we all have something to offer and share. Men need to be brave enough to let go of the control they have built over the years, and women need to support the men in doing that. Together we can make society and business better. It takes time, bravery, partnership and probably a little bit of luck too.by