Recently, I surrendered to TED talks. The first one that caught my eye was the chat by Sheryl Sandberg — COO of Facebook — on the three reasons why there are few women leaders. Sheryl tries to succinctly latch on to the most comfortable portions of her observations to bring us three reasons why we have so few women leaders. She attributes fewer women in the big roles to the lack of a seat at the table. Mostly, women fear to take that seat. Young working women at times start to make choices about career vis-à-vis married life and babies even before they has found their significant other to marry and have children with! Sheryl also talks about how women fall off the work force because they simply can’t always seem to get everything done at home and work, because even if they are working at office, they still end up doing more at home than before.
After working for almost 19 years, I am finding it increasingly difficult to deal with women in the workforce, too. Each time I meet someone, she appears to be worse off than the previous time. The anxiety of choice, office politics, male egos and indifferent acceptance are driving women up the wall. All in all, the situation surrounding women, their roles in organizations, their value to the P&L statement, and what they bring to the decision-making table has clearly divided the world into two factions – Pro Women and No Women. This is strange because since time immemorial, the male and female have not been at loggerheads in any sphere of life. Like the Yin Yang in Asian and Chinese philosophy, they are not opposing forces or dualities, but complementary opposites. Yin is unseen (hidden, feminine) and Yang is seen (manifest, masculine) and together they interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system.
Sounds great, but in the corporate world of lofty boardrooms and loftier psyches the story makes an uneasy turn. Less than 16% of women on this planet make it to the boardroom. Sheryl’s reasons aside, the men need to fall in line, too. Men have to realize that women have what noted anthropologist and author Helen E. Fisher, Ph.D, calls “Enlightened Power”. It means that women can actually transform the practice of leadership in an organization not just with their higher education and a bunch a degrees, but also with their inbuilt natural leadership talents which Fisher describes as “biological underpinnings”. To begin with, research shows that women are Web-Thinkers. In short, we get it – we are contextual, think broader, and exhibit mental flexibility for 90% of the issues we handle (no, we don’t get stuck to the guns like men!). We are more articulate; our executive social skills make us great at reading body language and we are keen thinkers. If that is not enough still, we are also excellent at networking, collaboration and empathy with different groups of species within a work environment. No, unlike men, we do not prefer drinks with the CXO Club over the HR Women’s Networking Group – yes, we are more than fair.
All this goes to show that women can co-create a better work environment, and correct the balance of power and responsibility that usually makes men unnaturally aggressive or insensitive. We need both – Yin and Yang – in the boardroom. As Fisher says, “Men and women are like two feet – they need each other to get ahead”. I like the idea of having two feet. Who wants to walk with one?