Gender balance, intro

Gender balance is not new on my agenda, but I have become much more seriously attracted to the question last September when “Partnership of Women and Men” was a major topic of the 2008 EBBF Annual Conference and I had the opportunity to converse and work with women entrepreneurs.

Back home, I embarked on a research project “Conversations with Women” made of 60-90 min “semi-structured interviews” I’m having with women – managers or not. It is a very enriching experience for me and I am very grateful to all those women (23 so far) who have accepted to participate. Of course, to make this meaningful, I must also talk with men, and I started doing this just two weeks ago. If you feel motivated to participate, please drop me a line here.

I have also been very encouraged and inspired by a conversation with Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, her blog and her book “Why women mean business“.

Accompany is offering coaching services to women in management or pursuing an entrepreneurial project, and consulting services to organizations wishing to consciously start moving towards reaching a better gender balance.

This blog intends to be a place where women and men interested in the topic of gender balance can meet, exchange their views and opinions and have meaningful and fruitful conversations. Everyone is welcome to participate. Just hit the “Post a Comment” button below this post. And do not hesitate to express yourself in your preferred language. Google’s translator is good enough to help everyone of us understand what you said.

If you wish to contribute with an article of your own, please contact me here.

Let me start then by setting the stage from which I operate and voicing my fundamental convictions (prejudice??).

I believe

– Our organizations, and our society at large, must (and will) eventually achieve a level balance between the feminine and the masculine in decision-making and in managing our affairs

– Women still hit many obstacles when engaging on a high-level career path. Some of these obstacles are unconscious, some are upheld because the status quo feels more comfortable and less risky, some are due to a misinterpreted spirit of competition

– Also women can be prejudiced against women

– “Equal treatment” is a form of discrimination, because the “game” is played according to masculine rules. Men think women should learn the rules of the game. Women don’t think it’s a game

– Many women seem to feel uncomfortable with ideas of quota or “positive action”. Success is then no longer attributable to their own personal performance but to their privileged status as a woman. However, some seem to start accepting such ideas as a necessary way to go in order to get enough women quickly enough to decision-making positions

– There are differences between men and women. To say this requires a definition of such differences. This discourse is still very sensitive because “difference” immediately prompts ideas of normal/different, of superior/inferior… 

– We need to use categorizations in order to make the conversation possible. This is OK so long as we refrain from “individual stereotyping”. In other words, certain talents, competencies, preferences, sources of motivation, values, needs, etc are more frequently found in the category of women than in the category of men and vice versa. That does not men that each man and each women corresponds to a “model” displaying the average traits of their respective category. An individual man can come very close to corresponding to the feminine “model” and an individual women to the masculine “model”

– I believe gender balance is a strategically important question because to make our decisions as good as they can be, we need to include the contributions of both the feminine and the masculine perspectives

– I do not believe women make better decisions or are better managers than men. I believe that both gender categories have their strengths and their weaknesses. Decisions that are too strongly “testosterone or estrogen driven” are likely flawed decisions. Only a genuine partnership between women and men (and including a number of other factors of diversity) brings about excellent, sustainable decisions or management and leadership styles

– What needs to be done at this point is to significantly increase the number and the influence of women at all levels of management and decision-making

– oh, and not to forget: this is not intended to put pressure on those women who choose not to pursue managerial careers. Every women (and, incidentally, every man) must feel totally free to choose whether to dedicate themselves to their family, or to have a job to earn their living, or to embark on a high-level career. And yes, unfortunately most ARE not totally free…

I will look more deeply into all those aspects in future posts. Please do not hesitate to send your comments, questions, suggestions…

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4 thoughts on “Gender balance, intro

  1. Great first post! Thanks for articulating these ideas so clearly and directly. I am glad to contribute to the discussion. As an example of your point that we need "to significantly increase the number and the influence of women at all levels of management and decision-making" one of my biggest frustrations is to see the configuration of top management levels of most technology organizations. I work in the field of educational technology, so I work with and am exposed to alot of tech-related companies and non-profits. I try to understand the organizations I am working with or contemplating work with, so I often check their "board of directors" and other management pages on their websites. How is it that the vast majority are composed of men, sometimes with one woman added to the picture? How can we change this picture? How are the decisions made that put only men in the top decision making levels of these organizations? If they are a new company, does it occur to them to invite women to the table when they are first forming key staff and director positions? It would be great to hear from some new tech companies about this idea. Did they have trouble finding interested females when they formed their startup, for example? Anyone out there who recently formed a new organization and wants to share their experience about this?

  2. I totally agreed with Serge regarding the gender balance.I seize the opportunity of this introduction phase by nourishing the reflection with a scientific insight into the factors that might have result in the current dramatic unbalance between genders.I invite you to just have a look on the last article posted on my blog : http://responsabilite-action.blogspot.com/ (article in French, as the conference was processed in French).

  3. Great intro, thanks for putting it all out there. While I’ve chosen not to pursue the managerial role in an organization, the thoughts are still highly relevant to me. I believe the innate processing of information is different in males and females, and that it dramatically affects decision-making. A balance between the two is key to good decisions, whether in boardrooms or bars or playgrounds. When I can find sources on the info I’ve been sent about how our brains are wired differently, I’ll be sure to share it here. Looking forward to more!

  4. Xavier I tried to post a comment on your blog but it cancelled my message while I was trying to figure out how to "choisir un profile". I find it a bit complicated.Anyway: thanks for your comment!Serge

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