A Comment On… Harvard Business Review “Explaining Gender Differences at the Top”
This article by Francesca Gino and Alison Wood Brooks does a great job of pointing out some of the reasons given for the gender imbalance leadership, including institutional barriers and men’s innate tendency towards dominance.
They also point out that women and men tend to see success differently: men define success in terms of the achievement of power, women define it in more social terms.
This is understandable given that, according to research going back to Piaget, males have an innate tendency to seek domination and short term wins, while females have a tendency to social stability and the long term good of the community.
Yet, the most important and at the same time most overlooked point here is that our culture simply assumes that the masculine definition of success is the right one and the only one.
My question is, why are we not questioning that interpretation?
Why do we continue to view success in terms of, as Mary Parker Follett put it, “power over” (dominance of others and control over resources) as opposed to “power with” (foster collaboration and win/win)?
Women struggle with success in leadership because the definitions of success and leadership are based on masculine traits.
Yet, according to Gerzma and D’Antonio’s ground breaking study consisting of 62,000 participants located all over the world, two thirds of the participants including both men and women believe that leadership traits generally considered feminine are what the world needs now.
I’d like to suggest that we need to focus less on what women can do to lead more like men and more on how we can change the culture so that women’s natural ways of leading are valued and sought after.