Gender Balancing The Business World – Part 3

In this final article of a three-part series, we’ll address the last reason Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, president of 20-first, sited for businesses struggling with gender balancing their company.

Avivah asks company leaders if they promote the people who want to be promoted and most often the answer is “we don’t know who wants to be promoted.”

Women are quiet and believe that hard work will result in advancement and recognition. Wrong. I am reminded of the Reese Witherspoon movie Just Like Heaven. In the beginning of the movie Reese’s character is a physician working double and triple shifts. She wants a promotion but rather than letting people know that, she just works her tail off, saying “yes” whenever asked regardless of her personal sacrifice. Meanwhile this jerky guy who has no integrity and little talent, lets everyone know he not only wants the promotion but expects it as a foregone conclusion.

Guess who gets promoted? Well, in all fairness, Reese’s character is in a car accident and in a coma, but the guy gets the promotion because he let everyone know he wanted it.

Women don’t push for power, they just work hard and believe that if they do good work and they are successful, they’ll be rewarded with development and advancement.

A friend of mine was in the corporate world for more than two decades before leaving to open her own company and she told me a story very similar to what Avivah was expressing:

As a field manager overseeing 50 retail locations, my friend, Debbie, worked really hard.  She did extra training programs, developed a sales newsletter with best practice ideas for her stores and the results paid off with some of the highest year-on-year sales growth of any area in the county. On top of that she traveled and trained other field managers and volunteered for several corporate communication projects. At the annual meeting the award for most successful field manager was presented. Debbie felt that this year the prize would surely be hers. She’d out performed in all areas across the board and yet when the winner’s name was announced it was a man’s name.

Later, her boss took her aside to explain. “I know that you had the best performance, Debbie, but we believed that if we didn’t give the other manager the award that he would quit and we know that you won’t quit – you have the company’s blood running through your veins.”

What a slap in the face. Debbie had believed that if she worked hard, she would be rewarded.

Women ask less than men. We have to step up, be vocal, and let our boss and those around us know that we have a goal, a role we are striving for. Ask your boss for advice – what do you need to do to get to the next level?

Avivah said that we have to get companies systematically changing the way they view their associates. Take gender out of the issue. It isn’t a women’s problem or a man’s problem, it is a business problem.

Take the word “woman” out of the discussion and talk company success, business profitability, and sales growth. Avivah said that over the last 15 years the new hires are much more gender balanced however when you look up the pyramid, men advance higher and faster than women. Why?

  • Career Cycle
  • Communication Styles
  • Power and Political Competence

Armed with some of this new knowledge via Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, be more vocal. Let your voice be heard and see if together we can’t make a difference. And check out Avivah’s blog for more information.