It feels as if we’ve been talking about closing the wage gap between the sexes for eons now. Women continue to battle for equal pay for equivalent position and performance, and are still met with lots of nodding heads but little seeming to be done. Well, not everyone is nodding their head without action: it seems that British Prime Minister David Cameron seems to want to do something about it.
The UK Telegraph recently reported that the PM has ordered larger companies (any business with over 250 staff) to divulge the wage disparities between their male and female employees. The Confederation of Business Industry is battling the case, citing that such reports would not actually shed a light on the subject, saying it would cause more confusion, requesting a voluntary approach.
Because we all know so many business leaders would volunteer such information on a regular basis, yes?
The article goes on to cite some of the arguments the Confederation cites for such disparities in pay, which can be attributed to “stereotypes,” which are said to deter women from seeking higher-paying careers as well as falling out of the higher pay grades or women stepping off the career ladder climb due to motherhood.
You can read more here. It’s an interesting piece, but it doesn’t really directly to the heart of the matter: paying for performance leads to more performance.
I’ve never quite understood a reluctance to pay for top talent. If capacity-driven success is what you desire, if you want accomplishments beyond your wildest understanding, then you must obtain and keep the best people in the industry suited to accomplish your goals. While there are many factors in the mix to accomplish this task, compensation is, quite simply, a large part of the equation.
Women comprise roughly over half of the labor force around the world, comprising 57% of the US Labor Market alone. In that labor market, they make 76.5% of what men make. The numbers around the world are about the same; it’s better in some places, worse in others. But the fact remains that over half the workforce is getting paid less than their counterparts. What does that say to hard-working employees who just happen to be female? That despite their best efforts that they’re worth less? It sets a precedent that causes one of two things to happen: unnecessary turnover or marginal performance.
In order to grow capacity for an organization, you need to have everyone working at full steam, completely focused on the task. Knowing that you’re being treated equally for performance ensures that everyone is squarely determined to complete the work at hand, and when they’re not, they talk. Rumors start, and that deters your talent from driving your business forward. Top performers compare notes and if they discover they’re not being treated fairly, they’ll most likely find another place where they think they have a better chance of getting paid what they deserve.
If companies were to divide the spoils more fairly, just think of what we could accomplish. Top talent deserves to be paid like top talent, regardless of stereotypes or having had a qualified life change on their benefits. If two people are top performers, pay them as such.
I wonder if this reporting will start the conversations that need to be had around paying for performance. It seems unnecessary that all the data is there, but resistance remains. If we could stop thinking of it as a historical gender based issue and focus on the common sense of the matter (that everyone deserves to be paid fairly and equally for a job well done,) then the gap could close and we could get on with the matter at hand: moving the global marketplace into one that only sees performance as the determining factor for compensation, not gender.
About the Author: Rita Trehan is a previous guest contributor to Women of HR, and the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.
I recently found myself involved in an online discussion with some colleagues regarding the use of the term “ballsy.” Let me set the stage: one colleague posted a link to an article and suggested that the content of it was “ballsy” considering the platform used. A female colleague agreed. Another male colleague pointed out that the use of the term “ballsy” could be perpetuating a sexist stereotype. A discussion ensued as to whether or not that term was bothersome to women, and if it, in fact, perpetuated a sexist stereotype.
My contribution to the discussion was that I’ve known women who in fact had bigger said anatomy than some men….figuratively speaking, of course. To me, the term has never bothered me, I’ve often used it myself, and it never really occurred to me that it could be perceived as sexist. My friend and colleague Rayanne Thorn, said the following:
I guess I’m pretty “cocky” AND “ballsy” when I need to be.
…it doesn’t bother me.
I’m more bothered by the cat calls when I walk my dog or a Service Manager at my car dealership telling me, “perhaps your husband should bring the car in.”
Maybe women have to be cocky and ballsy in order to garner respect from certain men.
This discussion got me thinking about a few issues surrounding the terminology.
Ballsy or Gutsy?
Is the term “ballsy” inherently sexist? As women, should the term bother us? Should we insist on instead being referred to as gutsy? Or fearless? Or daring? Do those words convey the same meaning, or is there a nuance to ballsy that we should embrace if we are, in fact, referred to as such?
Is it demeaning for a women to be called ballsy in that it implies that we are somehow trying to attain the standard of a man that we would not normally reach? That such a level of daring in inherent to men and not women?
The Real Issue?
Or is the real issue what Rayanne referenced; that women in some instances NEED to be cocky, ballsy, or whichever word you may choose to command respect from some men. That there are still men in the world that objectify women, continue to see us as a lesser sex in regards to certain issues, or refuse to see us as equals.
I don’t believe that’s the case with most men. The men I choose to surround myself with, those whom I call friends, my family members….they are respectful and appreciative of successful and accomplished women. I have been fortunate to have lived and worked in such environments where I haven’t felt implications of gender inequality. But clearly there are still some who, intentional or not, make it necessary for women to embrace their cocky, ballsy, or gutsy side. Does the ability to be ballsy put us on more of a level playing field with these types of men and do we need to embrace being so in such circumstances?
The Gender Equality Debate
The debate about gender equality in the workplace continues to rage on. Women are under-represented in C-level roles. Gender pay gaps still exist. Women have to conform to men’s way of “playing the game” in order to gain respect, or struggle with “old boys networks” in some companies and industries. Does the use of words such as ballsy or cocky perpetuate these issues, or should we embrace the ability to be so when we need to? Are we too focused on the words used, rather than the approach required in some instances and the mindset that makes it a necessity? What’s the real issue here?
As I mentioned earlier, the term has never bothered me. I admire and respect the strong, successful women around me who have the guts to stand up for what they believe. I hope that the men I associate with both personally and professionally respect me for my accomplishments. Generally, I haven’t needed to be ballsy in many situations. But if I had to, it wouldn’t bother me to be called out as such.
What do you think? Are you bothered by such terminology or do you embrace it?
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent acquisition and development in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
Not that long ago I attended a social function with a mix of friends, acquaintances and professional colleagues. Not so formal an event that it required cocktail attire, it was also not something as loose-hipped and free-flowing as a tailgate party.
At one stage as I was exiting a conversational grouping I felt the need, as people do, to provide an explanation as to why I was extricating myself from the conversation. So I opened my mouth and said “Excuse me; I need to find the little girl’s room.”
As soon as the words left my mouth I wanted to slap the shit out of myself.
Little girls’s room? Really? Did I truly just say that? Had I just infantilized and downgraded every woman present?
But then I got thinking. Perhaps, like many other things, we can take the social stigma associated with the phrase “little girl’s room” and use it to claim our power.
Look…most every man is terrified of the ladies room; to them it’s a mysterious wonderland filled with fainting couches, powder puffs, and baskets overflowing with free feminine hygiene products. Pondering the possibilities of what happens in this sanctum is as perplexing to them as the female reproductive system itself.
But maybe we have an opportunity to turn this enigmatic porcelain-and-tiled bastion into a venue of power. I say we take a stand – in office buildings and corporate offices around the globe – and begin hanging out in the ladies room. Let’s schedule meetings in there. Insist that a small conference table be set up in the lounge area; replacing the circa-1989 tweed couch that was provided as a resting spot for the menstruating gals.
We could rule the world if we insisted on conducting all our business in the ladies room. No boys allowed. Girls only.
The good old boys in the C-Suite won’t invite you to the annual golf outing? Screw ‘em; YOU get to hang out in the LADIES ROOM!
About the Author: With 25 years of HR Management experience, Robin Schooling, SPHR, has worked in a variety of industries. In 2013, after serving as VPHR with a Louisiana based organization, she left corporate HR to open up Silver Zebras, LLC, an HR Consulting firm. She blogs at HRSchoolhouse and you can follow her on twitter at @RobinSchooling where, on football weekends, you can read all her #whodat tweets.
Editor’s Note: Though many of our readers and writers tend to be US or UK based, the goal of Women of HR is to support all women in business, regardless of location. Today we are expanding our reach as our guest author takes a look at the challenges of women in business in Asia.
The business world in Asia needs to take a hard look at why many companies are still hesitant to hire women in leadership positions. Gender diversity in successful organizations has reached a point where women need to be brought into leadership roles. According to UN Women, the Asia-Pacific economy loses USD 89 billion every year by not cultivating the female workforce. This is only one of many reasons why women should be hired into the workforce as leaders.
Perceived Challenges for Hiring Women in Asia
There are a number of basic challenges that can influence Asian employers into thinking that hiring women complicates team synergies. The bottom line is these are just perceptions. Some of the difficulties that employers think they’ll face when hiring women include:
- Prioritizing family commitments
- Un-equal dedication of work hours as compared to male peers
- What-If Scenarios: What if they get married, what if they get pregnant, what if they move away?
- Effort required to become a female friendly workplace
However, don’t you think some of the same scenarios exist for men too? It may not seem like it but family is usually the number one priority for everyone. Challenges need to be worked out for both men and women and it’s unfair to think that just women will let you down.
Benefits of Women in Leadership Roles
More or less we understand the perceived challenges that employers may fear, including the ones listed above. However, the benefits of women in leadership roles and the specific talent they bring to an organization greatly outweighs the concerns.
- Experienced Multitaskers: Rather than taking a women’s requirement to juggle work and family as setback, one should consider that this actually makes them better project managers and team leaders. So much so that BBC covered the topic, scientifically proving that women are better multitaskers. Leaders should ask themselves, if the majority of their male leadership teams were replaced by women, would they actually achieve more?
- Extreme Dedication: Most Asian women know that getting a break in the professional world could come once maybe twice in their working careers. When they get it, their dedication is incomparable. They’re open to working from home, coming in on weekends and bringing their children to work. A report published by TalentCorp Malaysia and Acca revealed that the top 3 reasons why women leave work in Malaysia is:
- To raise a family
- Lack of work life balance
- To care for a family member.
As long as they’re given the opportunity to focus on both family and work they won’t let either one down.
- Different Leadership Styles: Teams in the workplace now want collaborative leadership styles rather than commanding ones. Certain character traits which are more dominant in women such as building relationships, listening and collaboration can create an environment which cultivates both team and company success. According to a survey conducted by HBR, 62% of respondents leaned towards hiring a male CEO unless the company was doing poorly in which case 69% wanted to hire a female leader. People understand that women make different leaders than men in a good way, they just don’t implement it regularly.
In an ideal world, women and men would be considered equal professionals – traits and perceived challenges would not be based on gender. However, anyone who has spent time working in Asia knows that we’re far away from this goal for gender diversity. How have you changed your workplace to be more female friendly, especially in leadership positions?
About the Author: Paul Keijzer is the CEO and Managing Partner of Engage Consulting in Malaysia, Pakistan and UAE. His primary focus is on transforming top teams and managing talent across Asia’s emerging and frontier markets. Download Paul’s Social Media Toolkit to Advance your Career
Editor’s Note: Dr. Lois P. Frankel is the President of Corporate Coaching International , an executive coach, speaker, and best-selling author. She has just released an updated and revised 10th anniversary edition of her book Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers. In it she reveals a distinctive set of behaviors that women learn in girlhood that ultimately sabotage them as adults and discusses how to eliminate those behaviors. Today, she has shared her Top 10 tips with us. Some you may agree with, some you may not. Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Top 10 Tips For Claiming the Corner Office
1. Body Art: Don’t get a tattoo or an unusual body piercing if you’d had even one drink, toke, or snort. You’ll be likely to regret it. Similarly, don’t be goaded into getting one by your sorority sisters, girlfriends, or someone you’re dating who thinks they’re hot.
2. Communication: Resist the urge that screams incomplete when you don’t say everything that’s on your mind. Women, fearing they haven’t explained well enough, can use about twice as many words per day than men (and then wonder why they’re not listened to). We think when we talk more, we make a better case – when in fact the opposite is true. This is a case where less is more.
3. Inappropriate Use of Social Media: Once you post something on the internet, getting it off is like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. You have no control over where it goes. Play it safe. Put nothing on the internet that could cause someone to doubt your values, your brand, or your reputation.
4. Giving Away Your Ideas: Get in the habit of asking a question after expressing an idea or making a proposal. Something like, “Are there any objections to immediately getting to work on this?” is ideal. This increases the likelihood of acknowledgement and discussion.
5. Feeding Others: Unless your name is Betty Crocker, don’t bring food to work or have it sitting on your desk. It softens the impression others have of you. Of course if it needs softening because you’re a tough broad, it could be a good strategy!
6. Skipping Meetings: If you think meetings are just a big waste of time, think again. They’re called “meet-ings” not “work-ings.” Even when a meeting seems unproductive, it provides you with the opportunity to market you brand, get information, and be on the radar screens of those who making decisions about your career.
7. Being a Doormat: Pablo Picasso said, “There are only two types of women – goddesses and doormats.” Avoid being the latter by learning to manage expectations about what you can and can’t realistically do (take a negotiations class if you have to), asking for what you want or need rather than waiting to be given it, and trusting your instincts. If you think you’re being taken advantage of or abused, you likely are.
8. Protecting Jerks: Women are like jerk flypaper. Not only do we attract them more than men do, we tolerate them longer than we should. Consciously distance yourself from jerks (and jerks can be men or women) so that you’re not found guilty by association, when you get blamed for the actions of a jerk re-direct the blame to where it belongs, and when the jerk is your boss it’s time to look for another job. You won’t change a jerk, so protect yourself.
9. Making Miracles: Miracle workers get canonized not recognized. In every organization there’s a baseline for hard work that everyone is expected to toe. If you consistently work beyond the baseline you’ll be seen as a worker-bee and just be given more work to do. Learn to not only do your job well, but also be strategic in how it gets done so that you’re seen as more than just a worker-bee. Use all the extra “free” time on your hands to build relationships that will serve you throughout your career.
10. Branding: We are all brands in the workplace. It’s what distinguishes you from everyone else. Write down 3 – 5 words you want people to use to describe you. Then identify the behaviors in which you must engage for others to actually see those traits. When you act in concert with your brand, people will come to trust you.
And so it continues. Miley Cyrus, who has become everyone’s favorite person to trash on the internet over the last several months, popped up this past weekend on Saturday Night Live where she did her schtick (it has become a schtick, btw) of rolling her tongue around on the side of her mouth while flashing some sort of pop star gang sign with her long lacquered fingernails.
I still don’t get it although, to be fair, I think she does. It appears she’s moved into self-deprecating territory and, thankfully I guess, has quickly become a parody of herself.
One bit of good has arisen from all the Miley chatter though in that it has served as yet another catalyst for cultural discussions on feminism, women and the patriarchal culture in which we still live.
- Gloria Steinem has chimed in. A few weeks ago at the Women’s Media Awards, Le Steinem, when asked if she thought some of Miley’s recent activities were setting the feminist movement back, answered “I don’t think so. I wish we didn’t have to be nude to be noticed, but given the game as it exists, women make decisions.” (Blame to society)
- Sinead O’Connor, who learned that Miley claimed her “Wrecking Ball” video was based on O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to U” video, wrote an open letter to Miley in which she said “Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.” (note – as of this writing, the open letter has been removed from O’Connor’s website but you can read the full letter here). (Blame to Miley. And sort of to society).
Now I don’t think many of us can argue that the global society in which we live is patriarchal; centuries and eons have laid that foundation. And while I’m all for making money and being a capitalist there is, at the core of capitalism, a whiff (just a whiff) of male privilege as evidenced by the fact that it’s usually a bunch of rich white men who are calling the shots. And those are the same dudes who dictate, to a fairly large extent, what women can and/or should do. Miley is just going along and playing the game the best she can in the world in which we live.
But should she? Or, perhaps the better question to ask becomes “is it even a game that’s being played?”
Feminism is about providing equal opportunities for women yet it empowers men as well as women by allowing all of us to cast aside pre-conceived notions of “the way things should be.” It allows us as women (not the men who are in power) to determine what is best for us and ensures that we all have the freedom to make our own choices. Sometimes it takes the collective group to get those options on the table in the first place (i.e., the right to vote, have equal funding for sports) and sometimes it’s individuals making a decision for themselves about how they want to live their lives. Shall I wear pants or dresses? Have short or long hair? Enter the workforce or be a stay at home parent? Use an IUD or the Birth Control pill?
While I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about Miley’s spank-fest on the VMA awards I fully supported her right to do it. She sparked some discussion. And while crappy teddy-bear costumes may not be cause for revolution one spark can start a fire – or at least keep it burning.
So yeah – if Gloria, Sinead and Miley walked into a bar I would certainly buy all of them a drink; and that’s not just a punch line.
Disclaimer: I am no fan of Ms. Cyrus although I do admit to finding “Party in the USA” strangely intoxicating and have, on occasion, found myself singing along.
Do you like your job? Are you fully engaged in it? Though this question is one that may seem like it depends on your personality, there is a certain part of this that is hard-wired into your gender. Though it may seem like old-fashioned thinking, there is more and more evidence linking sex genes and the ability to fully engage yourself in certain tasks.
In the post-World War II era, the “typical” family dynamic had dad at work and mom at home. Though this was not always the way of the world, it was pushed to be the way things should normally be, for several reasons. The idea that women were best served as providers and should be caring for their family was often stated, and the man’s job to go out and work for the family’s income was expected.
These lines began to blur in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as the women’s lib movement pushed back, claiming the right for women to also work outside of the home, and shifting the cultural view to the idea that women can do everything that men can do, and should be expected to try.
Fast forward to the nineties and the turn of the twenty-first century, and the two-family income household had become the norm for married couples. Worker productivity and employee satisfaction became buzzwords, and companies began looking at efficiency consultants, who considered not just the best layout for a business to get the best product for its investment, but the corporate culture, and improving employee engagement.
This is a trend that has continued, and as genetics research continues to become a larger and larger factor in looking at how humans perform, gender-based accomplishment studies have come out. One of the things that has been suspected for a long time is that women are predisposed to be better multitaskers. A number of studies have confirmed this, showing that when asked to do several unrelated tasks in a short period of time, women vastly outperformed men. Men, however, are better at focusing on a single task to the exclusion of another. A famous study often quoted in psychology classes looks at men and women who were given two different stories that were simultaneously read to them, one in each ear. When they were asked to choose one story and listen to it, to the exclusion of the second, men were able to do so. Women were not.
So how do these natural brain differences translate to work engagement now? A lot of it depends on the kind of tasks that men and women are expected to do, and the varying skills needed to complete them. Traditionally, men at a management level were often required to perform many of the larger tasks, but have an assistant to help them perform the smaller, variable tasks that were expected. As the gender playing field has leveled more and more, the high-level jobs have been shown to be performed equally well by both men and women. An engagement survey would likely show equal satisfaction for both genders. Instead, the discrepancies have been shown to be more at the low income and education levels.
At the blue-collar level, there is still a gender bias when it comes to certain jobs. Technical service and repair jobs are more often chosen by men, and jobs like office manager are more often chosen by women. Though this has been partially dictated by the cultural history of these positions, the tasks expected in each job type dovetail nicely with what the brains of men and women are naturally best, and likely most fulfilled, at doing.
What do you think? Is there a notable difference in engagement based on gender? Is the difference more or less pronounced based on income and education level?
About the Author: Louise Gregory is a human resources professional specialized in employment engagement analysis and pensions management at AON. When Louise isn’t working hard in the big smoke you will find her sunbathing on the East coast. She loves cooking, writing in her new blog and trekking with her family and Benson, the house dog.
I got a tad worked up recently when I received some information about a local event that is being advertised as a “Job Fair for Women.” The employers participating are primarily in the retail and hospitality industry although there are other industries represented. The communication included the line “If you know any women seeking employment please refer them to our Job Fair. Bring copies of your resume and bring a friend.”
I pondered what would happen were I to show up, as a female job seeker, and bring a male friend? Would he be turned away at the door or would he be allowed to enter? Is the organizer (who shall remain nameless) implying, by lack of invite, that men neither want nor need jobs? Or is this an indication of a belief that men, for some reason, are neither equipped to perform these particular jobs nor will they deign them worthy of their efforts? And why, I wondered, are these high profile employers participating in an event that is excluding an entire gender?
Now I’m in a region of the country that has a very heavy petrochemical, gas and oil industry presence where, obviously, many jobs have traditionally been held by men. I worked in that industry for several years and had numerous conversations with Joe the Foreman and Bob the Unit Supervisor about providing the same opportunity for everyone – male or female – to apply for jobs and receive equal consideration. They went along…albeit grudgingly. So what, I wondered, would happen if Joe and Bob were to attend a “Job Fair for Men?” I’m convinced they would like that option…even as we sit here in 2013.
And then, as my mind went off on a tangent, I got to ruminating how we (the collective ‘we of society’ that is) determine that it’s okay to continue putting working women in one silo and working men in a separate silo.
Have you, as I have, ever received notices from certain training providers that offer courses designed exclusively for women? There are session topics like “Communication Skills for Women” and “Assertiveness Skills for Women” and “Conflict Management Skills for Women.” So this tells us what exactly? That men have the market cornered on these skill sets and won’t be interested? That women will be able to attend these sessions and not be ashamed when they get emotional or share their weaknesses or admit to, as one provider puts it, “… deal<ing> with trembling hands, “butterflies,” and other nervous symptoms?” What the hell is that? A 1931 pamphlet explaining menstruation?
I despise exclusion – based on gender, race, age, religion, etc. – in any form. Some will say that the gals want to hang with the gals and the guys want to hang with the guys. Fine – get your groove on and segregate yourself at the corner pub with the dudes or at the nail salon with the ladies after a long week of toil and labor. But please don’t bring that mindset to the workplace or professional environs.
Every time you do it makes me die just a little.
With 25 years of HR Management experience, Robin Schooling, SPHR, has worked in a variety of industries. In 2013, after serving as VPHR with a Louisiana based organization, she left corporate HR to open up Silver Zebras, LLC, an HR Consulting firm. She blogs at HRSchoolhouse and you can follow her on twitter at @RobinSchooling where, on football weekends, you can read all her #whodat tweets.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Over the years I’ve had a handful of people reach out to me to find out what my thoughts are on workplace flexibility–namely, for men. Many people still seem to be stuck in the thought process that women need flexibility for work and family time, but men don’t.
And that sucks.
I have a wonderful wife and twin girls running around at home. My wife works full time as a teacher, and if she ever has to be off work it takes several hours of advance planning and preparation for a substitute. Guess who has the “easy” job when it comes to flexibility? Yeah, I drew that straw.
The great part is that I work for a wonderful company. The not-so-great part is that as the resident HR pro, I have to be vigilant about fighting off the insidious mediocrity that lurks around the corner. A manager starts talking about “core work hours?” I coach them in the other direction. Another leader starts talking about eliminating the ability to work from home? I discuss the retention of key people due to our flexibility in the past.
99% of the time these discussions aren’t difficult or malicious, and in every instance thus far I’ve been able to guide the manager back to the reason we offer these accommodations to our staff in the first place. We want to be different. We want to focus on our people. We want our people to trust us so that we, in turn, can trust them with our customers.
Whenever my focus starts to slip, I think back to the day when the girls were born. We had been expecting it for a few months, obviously, and I went in to tell my manager that I needed a week off to help with the girls. The look of disgust on her face has never left my mind even after several years.
That’s why I fight for our people.
That’s why I fight for flexibility.
That’s my battle cry. What’s yours?
About the Author: Ben Eubanks is an HR professional, author, and speaker from Huntsville, AL. During the day he works as an HR Manager for Pinnacle Solutions, an award-winning defense contractor. After work hours, he writes at upstartHR, an HR blog focusing on leadership, passion, and culture.
Do women think and behave differently than men when making ethical decisions? Are we really the exemplars of good decisions and good deeds when we occupy leadership positions?
Women aren’t ethical simply because they are female. Carol Gilligan, psychologist, asserts that women do operate with a unique ethical perspective because of cultural conditioning. She states that men are more concerned with issues of rules and justice, while women focus more on caring relationships and are less likely to judge others. Such concern does not in itself lead to ethical (wise) decisions. The practice of ethics takes a lifetime of learning and we are only as good at it as our history indicates. Those striving to be ethical start over every day, hoping to do it right.
Both genders share some common misconceptions about how to activate ethics in the workplace. Whether a decision is ethical or not is not defined by expressed beliefs or a values statement, but by behavior—what is actually said and done—and its impact on others. Women should prepare to maintain an ethical perspective backed by actions once in the midst of corporate demands. Understand that “good people” can do the wrong thing. One slips down an ethical slope one small step at a time. Understanding the laws of behavior make that slip less likely. Here are a few practical steps to help you maintain your balance:
Step 1: Learn about behavior.
Once you begin to see ethical behavior as a function of the consequences that have surrounded that pattern over many years, you see how much you can do to help a person learn new ways to demonstrate values. To increase ethical behavior, don’t look to what people say they do, rather, look at what they do and the impact of their behavior. Learn how to pinpoint, measure, and reinforce the patterns that count.
Step 2: Make open dialogue possible.
As women, we tend to think that we are great listeners and conversationalists. But we, too, may be guilty of closing the door on dialogue when we’re in charge. To sustain ethical patterns of behavior at work, telling the truth is essential for all employees. Therefore, leaders at all levels must understand their role in promoting, not punishing, truth telling. That is where ethical leadership does the most good—you must always be ready to influence the ethical conditions, or lack, in your workplace. The freedom to discuss issues without negative repercussions is a sign of an ethical workplace.
Step 3: Live the example.
The workplace is not a democracy, but a venue in which some are reported to and others report. This hierarchal structure can create situations in which those in charge forgo common courtesies. If it is unacceptable for your employees to slam doors, yell, or make derisive remarks, then don’t do so yourself. When you use negative techniques to get what you want, employees are afraid to tell the truth about things that matter. Such aversive tactics are doubly unethical when you are in a position to control the consequences for another person.
Step 4: Be accountable.
Currently, there are now more discussions of caps for executive compensation—a pay for performance notion. Imposed regulations will escalate if individuals don’t stand up for reason and fairness on this issue. Watch the perks of the office. Be alert to who got you there and take care in how you exercise your ‘rights’. Male or female, we learn to justify inequities that are in our favor one step at a time. If you ask your employees to make sacrifices, make those sacrifices yourself; that may not be the rule, but it is the ethical choice.
Step 5: Reward yourself and others.
Employees need to know what you value. People aren’t all alike and don’t want the same types of recognition. Some people love public hoopla; others hate it and might just appreciate a sincere thank you. Find out the differences and let people know what is important to you as well.
Treat yourself the way you want to be treated. Make decisions seeking a balance between the rights of others, justice, the common good and self-interest.
Gilligan concluded that women are not inferior (or superior) in their moral development, but different, because we focus on connections with others and lean toward exercising an “ethic of care” over an ethic of mere justice. It is this unique difference that we should use and integrate into our workplace interactions.
About the author: As internationally known consultant and president and chief executive officer of Aubrey Daniels International, Darnell Lattal designs and implements behavior-based business strategies to achieve core initiatives. In partnership with her clients, Darnell has expertly contributed to organizational redesign and change management and other core business processes. Darnell has authored several books.
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