Women are not the problem – it’s the old world view of business that needs “disruption”.
It’s all over the news, isn’t it? Every day for the past few Weinstein-weeks a story has erupted from the same industry, a new industry, a professional setting or an entire category that is coming to terms with its own murky history of harassment of women.
Yet countless reports from big consulting firms show that women are an asset to business and boardrooms because they are greater collaborators, operate with a legacy mindset, are more trusted with assets as well as naturally inclusive in the workplace. Bottom line is this impacts your bottom line – companies who employ more women and nurture gender equality do better. So I think we all know it is time to create an environment where women are going to thrive.
The last decade has seen an explosion of conferences, groups, programs and empowerment sessions aimed at women, but nearly every guy I talk to feels anywhere from guilty or excluded, to misunderstood or ignorant – prompting an even greater divide. We’ve got our focus all wrong. Toxic or unenlightened cultures are really holding us all back. There’s a massive corporate blind spot blocking our ultimate business vision.
Women no longer want to have to adapt to ecosystems that were designed through male principles, nor should men feel that female-lensed thinking is exclusive to women, nor of no benefit to them. Those businesses not thinking about gender need to catch up with the expansion and inclusion of modern society. Let’s not forget the design of “business” developed in a historical time when men went to work and women sat in the typing pool (until such time as they were married, pregnant and became the perfect housewife).
“Women no longer want to have to adapt to ecosystems that were designed through male principles, nor should men feel that female-lensed thinking is exclusive to women, nor of no benefit to them.”
For decades, clever businesses have been tackling the issue with the organisation of marginalised groups into environments where they can feel safe and support, and learn from one another. Whether they have been truly effective is uncertain. Deloitte UK, for example, cited these echo chambers as constructive on one level but were still not getting the traction or cultural change needed. They have now made it compulsory for execs, senior managers and c-suite to attend these meetings – because let’s face it – THEY are the people with the power to lead and change the dynamic.
As a ten-year-old student, I was enrolled in a school that had historically been boys-only until the year I joined as a female-foundation-student. This would prove to be my awakening to the strength and power that gendered “lenses” have on the success of cultures. I became acutely aware that the male-lens was dominating the environment I existed in – from the school curriculum, to the school rules, the focus of student awards and achievements, the extra-curricular activities on offer and even the reading lists. I felt like a tiny fish swimming in the wrong school. Sure, girls wore skirts and boys wore shorts, but everything else about the school seemed to default to its century of male-lensed history.
I see this same phenomenon in so many businesses. While gender is acknowledged, the effort to truly understand the female customer, consumer or end-user is nixed for a shortcut that is just a bit pinker and just a bit smaller.
So, what next – how do we make it a thing that business, that people and that life uses both gender views to achieve its objectives?
Male and female lenses are easy to use, and can be learned (or relearned) by anyone. It starts with the recognition that they both bring better connection with customers and therefore a greater financial upside – as well as a positive impact on a culture. Being trained to see the differences between both male and female preferences is a fast track to growth.
Importantly, it means holding up a massive mirror and seeing what gender issues exist internally within a business too. Is the culture unwittingly biased towards male or female? Is there a key senior decision maker holding onto a traditional business lens? Is it a product that has lost its relevance to busy women juggling their load? How does your business behave externally as a brand? And finally ask yourself – what is the gender-preference that dominates your business? Does it allow the female-lens to thrive, to express, to build and to contribute to make the workplace culture a healthy ecosystem for all? Or is it preferring the male-lens and potentially prohibiting you from adding $000s to the bottom line? Find out all the little pieces that are getting in the way because your female audience will hear all your wrong notes, even if they’re buried in the sweetest symphony.
Now think about how gender-enlightenment might affect how decisions are made, strategies are executed and business directions are improved? How products are designed, marketing is done and customers fall in love with you? What are the approval processes and are they male or female-lensed in their outlook? In your answer, you will find the solution as to where to begin your new-world perspective.
It’s time to stop worrying about what your business can do for you – and it’s time to start asking, what can women do for your business?
Bec Brideson is helping businesses and brands drive exponential growth with a market opportunity estimated to be worth $28T. Through her work in gender-intelligence and innovation in ‘womenomics’ her first book ‘BLIND SPOTS: How to uncover and attract the fastest emerging economy’ has just been published through Wiley. To find out more about Bec and how she can help you turn a pressing issue into a profitable outcome, visit her at becbrideson.com.