Rachel Short was our guest speaker at last week’s WDF celebrations for International Women’s Day in Guernsey and Jersey.
Rachel is a psychologist, 30% Club Steering Committee member and one of the lead authors of Cracking the Code and View from the Top; research papers into diversity and inclusion, conducted with KPMG and the 30% Club. Rachel is also the Founder of the newly established Not-for-Profit Why Women Work, a social enterprise to accelerate gender diverse corporate leadership.
Rachel was an engaging speaker who covered a lot of material during her talk. Reflecting now on the points she made, these are the ones that particularly struck a chord with me: –
82:18 is, and has been for some time, the gender split in the top echelons of business. New data to be published soon will reveal a marked improvement in the proportion of women at all levels beneath the executive suite but sadly not within it. Rachel quoted from research conducted by former actor Geena Davies in the film world, where 18% is also the percentage of female speaking characters in top-grossing movies both today and for the past half of a century!
This does beg the question, with all the efforts put into gender diversity in recent years – what is keeping the magic number of 18% so firmly in place?
Leadership for the 21st Century
Other research quoted by Rachel included that of John Gerzema – The Athena Doctrine . (Attached is a link to his Ted talk). In summary – 64,000 people surveyed around the world concluded that traditional female leadership traits and values are those most in demand for the 21st century. Predicting in the future, women, and the men who think like them, will have the edge, as leaders are required to demonstrate more flexibility, collaboration and long-term thinking.
This research was published in 2013. I read the book and watched the Ted Talk. It is an impressive piece of work, pointing to a radical rethink in society, how come it didn’t go viral?
Women and Warmth
I suppose the thing that resonated most for me personally was Rachel’s comments on how we unconsciously judge men and women differently. It is expected, and indeed probably welcomed, that some men will come over as cool, fact based and serious. However if a woman does the same, she is much more likely to be judged negatively due to our unconscious programming regarding the genders. Much of the “fix the women” training over the last decade has been encouraging women to be more like men. However Rachel said that while adopting male characteristics may help a woman in the early stages of her career, it is positively injurious once she approaches the boardroom, where boards are looking for women to demonstrate more gender typical traits such as collaboration, risk aversion and thoroughness.
Rachel stressed that leadership traits aside, the factor a woman will be judged on most is whether she exudes warmth or not.
That reminded me of our unofficial WDF motto “Professional and Nice”, which was one of the principles on which we set up the group. Maybe in light of this research we should reword that to “Professional and Warm”!
These are just a few snippets from a very informative talk.