As Angelica and Michael point out, diversity is a problem. Diversity is a problem because it enhances complexity, increases differences, massively slows down decisions processes and building of trust, and finally, it causes conflicts (Marte, 2015). The current solution to the problem of diversity is its reduction. Women, who enter a culture that is dominated by men, perceive these problems and work to avoid them. Stereotypically, women focus more on the community and engage more in emphatic-intuitive thinking and decision models. They strive to manage and reduce conflicts and enhance trust (Chao & Tian, 2011). Women intuitively realize that we like those who are similar to us. That means that upon entering a male-dominated business and leadership culture, they adapt to the prevalent communication patterns in that culture to avoid diversity issues. This surely leads to a smoother career-path for a woman and less problems with diversity for the company, but it also diminishes its benefits to near zero.
When we talk about this, I can clearly observe all of this in our workshop facilitators, dr. Angelica V. Marte and Michael J. Müller. It’s intriguing to watch them interact with us and with each other. Angelica has spent a lot of her career in the academic research world and then in the business world, dominated by men. She is the first and the last person to speak to any topic, talks straight and direct, makes her messages clear and focuses on her 42 slides in the presentation, sometimes failing to notice that we as participants want to contribute to the discussion. She is professional, to-the-point and underlines her statements with her scientific background. Even in her picture on the slide, she embodies the male stereotype (or the stereotype of a successful woman in a men’s world) – arms crossed, looking straight into the camera with a slight social smile. Michael, on the other hand, stays playful and engaged with the participants in the workshop; he is the one to notice when we have something to say. He had prepared colored pencils and papers, chalk, and play-doh, in case we get inspired to create something during the workshop. He presents himself as an actor, and in his picture he is looking away from the camera with a child-like curiosity in his eyes. This difference is so obvious I wonder if they do it on purpose, just to give an example that male and female communication and behavior patterns are not necessarily connected to gender or biological sex. What’s interesting is that they perfectly balance each other. They demonstrate this diversity we talk about – and hint to the possibility of an integrated approach.
It’s not so much about the gender of the people in the leadership teams, but the diversity in their thinking and behavior patterns. If we reach the goal of having 50 % of senior leadership positions held by women, but do not change the culture, we have done very little to enhance our progress. I believe that sooner or later, the gender-battle must become superfluous and terms like “male and female patterns” meaningless. These patterns have very little to do with our genitals and much more with what we learn to be right, good or accepted.
Chao, C. & Tian, D. (2011): Culturally Universal or Culturally Specific: A Comparative Study of Anticipated Female Leadership Styles in Taiwan and the United States. In: Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, No. 18 (1), p: 64 – 79, Sage, Thousand Oaks.
Jourová, V. (2016). Gender balance on corporate boards: Europe is cracking the glass ceiling. European Comission. http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/gender_balance_decision_making/1607_factsheet_final_wob_data_en.pdf
Kimmel, M. S. (2013). Who's afraid of men doing feminism; in: Digby, T. (Ed.) Men Doing Feminism, Routledge.
Marte, A.V. (2015): Mit weiblichem Durchblick zu mehr Aufsicht? ZU|Daily online
Marte, A.V., Müller, M.J., Wieland, J. (2017): Wenn Geschichten Führung führen. Narrative Perspektiven auf Führung, Führungs- und Führungskräfteentwicklung; in: J. Chlopczyk (Hrsg.), Beyond Storytelling, Springer Verlag.
Swart, C. (2017). Re-Authoring Leadership Narratives With and Within Organizations; in: J. Chlopczyk (Hrsg.), Beyond Storytelling, Springer Verlag.
United Nations. (2015). The World's Women 2015: Trends and Statistics. https://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/worldswomen.html
Woetzel, J., Madgavkar, A., Ellingrud, K., Labaye, E., Devillard, S., Kutcher, E., Manyika, J., Dobbs, R. and Krishnan, M. (2015). The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth? McKinsey & Company – September 2015. http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/how-advancing-womens-equality-can-add-12-trillion-to-global-growth