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Ladies, why are we waiting for The System to recognize the overwhelming evidence that companies with women in leadership outperform those without? Corporate America is rife with women’s leadership development programs and excellent ideas about how to help women advance, but it’s not happening. The System – by which I mean our prevailing corporate and political culture – doesn’t know how to adjust. I believe it’s up to us.
Recently I wrote an article challenging women to stop waiting for The System to fix itself; I called on women to step into their power and to BE the powerful leaders they ARE. This article got a lot of attention, most good, but some was critical in stating that we shouldn’t stop advocating change in The System, because if we stop asking for equality, the subject will wither and people will forget perpetual issues like the equal pay imbalance that dogs just about every measure we look at – even recent MBAs.
But in fact, that’s exactly what I’m proposing. Let’s stop spending so much of our collective energy trying to change a broken system. The equal pay issue won’t be forgotten, but changing a broken system isn’t going to help anyone – women or men – because gender inequity is a symptom of larger problems. It’s time to transform The System.
It’s not just about gender, it’s the economy too
There’s more at stake than just the fate of women. The entrepreneurial ranks are bursting with women, demonstrating that women are staying in the economy. Women will be ok. But the Internet economy has made it almost too easy for good people – men and women, but especially women – to bail out of corporate America (and government) and still make a buck, have a life and change the world. There are oodles of good people still in The System trying to do the right thing, but they’re rolling a boulder up a mountain. The System just makes it too hard for them to succeed far too often.
The System has some really intractable problems. The inability to take advantage of female talent is just one of them, along with difficulty fostering innovation, distributing authority and accountability, providing excellent customer experience and helping reduce stress among employees and leaders alike, to name a few. In addition, the economy is struggling to get out of the ditch, the previously-third-world is on the rise economically, we’re running out of cheap oil, and Washington is making things worse by falling victim to political polarity.
Is this a system that we really want to change?
Change vs. Transformation
Change is not transformation. Change fixes the past while transformation creates the future. This was made crystal clear to me by Chris McGoff’s new book, The PRIMES. “A butterfly is a transformation, not a better caterpillar,” says Chris and he’s absolutely right that this principal applies in business too. Watch his video and you’ll absorb some real wisdom very quickly!
The key to reframing the gender issue – and every other intractable problem – is to work on a transformation strategy, not a change strategy. It’s an art as much as a science, and boards and executive teams the world over would be wise to study transformation and begin applying its principles to their organizations.
Here’s a start. Think of women as an investment concept.
UPDATE 9/29/11: I’m not alone. New research finds the same.
We can be very, very helpful to you in this effort.