I am still amazed at the frequency of times I encounter managers and leaders who discount the talent, skills and abilities around them because the human packaging happens to be the wrong gender. This gender bias is often masked in poor performance marks that have more to do with conflicting gender stereo types than actual performance.
One female executive described a poor performance review that tagged her for demonstrating an undercurrent of insubordination. When she asked for information on what characteristics seemed insubordinate she was told that she often was too direct, too objective and just did not meet the demands of executive level work. Her unit was out performing those of her peers and the same qualities in her male counter parts were considered the formula for success.
Studies consistently indicate that the gender gap is not defacto a talent or ability gap. It does appear to be a socialization gap in both some males (who assume women are less capable of sustaining performance in high pressure or highly competitive environments) and in women who fear that their more public or powerful characteristics (direct communication, flexibility to new approaches, directive and commanding management style, orientation towards the general benefit or tendency to take direct action to get things done is either too “girly” or inappropriate female behavior in the work place. The irony (and tragedy) of the no win assessment is painful.
In my observation company’s that minimize gender bias are better run (fewer employee claims, lower turn over and better financial strength), seem to have better competitive and cash positions and have a culture of innovation and collaboration. Mind this is only anecdotal, but as an outsider who spends time in numerous different companies and industries it seems to be a non-exclusive pattern (meaning that not all highly competitives and positive companies are run by or have significant number of women in key leadership roles).
So, I contemplate ways to help organizations break out of the pink curtain and discover the full depth of talent and ability that exists in their own ranks, and to invest in that future purposefully.