“Women on Board” – who’s really blocking progress – men or women?

There is a huge gapping hole between past and future. Business still struggles to make sense of the changes required and the focus on “Women on Board” highlighted once more by Cameron through Lord Davies’ reporting on numbers of women rising to the top, yet again showing slow progress and many major organisations resisting the call.

Business is confused, and in many places, stagnant where women are concerned; while in some arenas, business thrusts ahead without substantial impact coming from women. Why still little change at the top, and at all levels? Why still no significant flood of females stepping into major numbers at the top and succession plans to the boardrooms of the UK?

I believe we are stuck because we still have the “same old ‘same old’ conversations” about the players and not the playing field. Specifically, I fear that that many women’s initiatives and achievements have alienated men and pushed them to a corner. My challenge to women is to keep on forging ahead with more positive success stories and prominent acts of female judgement and achievements; while remembering to include and educate men into meaningful (realistic and practical) conversations that create useful inclusive collaboration; and aiding the co-creation of a new blueprint for success and a language that feeds business performance (measured in service and profits) and society (measured in health and wellbeing).

While not wanting men or women to sacrifice any advantages gained over the last 6 decades, I truly do not see why women need lose touch with their emotional savvy, intellectual mastery and their loving female power in relationship energy. When this is mixed with a strong operational task focused male energy, the mix is more successful. “The future of business is emotion” says Patrick Dixon, Futurist. “We need masculine and feminine contributions to collaboration that ensure that the rise of women integrates with the best of men”.

I do not believe, as is often written, that women are the only salvation of the economic crisis – although I do know that women can bring huge value and highly intelligent commercial input to the economy with their ability to integrate emotional intelligence into monetary value, service and wealth. However I am concerned that this is not attained at any price that robs us of our female natural wisdom. If women can stand firm on all that is good for the heart and soul of business as well as minds and bodies, especially in an era where markets demands the best service. I believe this will fuel a passion for a more meaningful wide view of ‘wealth’ – that of authentic health and wellbeing, wide spread growth in family and community value, a ‘better life’ as well as a more sustainable economic environment for all.

However immediately we do need to see what is happening for MEN. They are not included in the conversation unless focused on women. What is happening for them? In a recent survey carried out by Corporate Heart earlier this year; some insights emerged;

Looking at the gap between what men think ‘most men’ agree on, and their own personal view, we uncover:

The “unspoken conversation” 83% see themselves as ‘relationship focused’ leaders rather than ‘tough guys’.

A desire for change 60% said they would like work to be different yet continue to work in the same old way.

Actions differ under pressure 50% on average, behave as “tough guys” yet hide their true emotions to get the job done!

These highlights and the comments and insights in the full report show us that men are shifting their views however not talking about it with other men. Possible shy of our PC world, men don’t know how that conversation should be structured. In working with groups of men now, we find a huge change in their mindsets occurs once the new blueprint is explored. It gives them a framework to see the whole picture as men and women integrate their talents at work together.

My intention is to support men and women – and in particular for women across the world to get talking WITH men (not against them) with a WISE mind set, a REALISTIC yet loving manner, an INCLUSIVE collaboration, AUTHENTIC female dialogue and PRACTICAL result. Vice versa, my current work is developing MEN so they can open up meaningful dialogue WITH women so that work-life is more successful for both sides.

Rather than playing the ‘male’ game of the last century and endangering our female species, I urge women to honour our collective gift of “soft power” and our diverse talents of service, collaboration, ingenuity, organisation, multi-tasking, innovation and entrepreneurial creativity.

My greatest fear is observing the growing changes over generations of women who are being moulded into hybrid models of ‘male behaviour’ unnaturally rather than using their natural masculine mindset appropriately alongside their feminine life perspective and female biological drivers. Women can be and are great business leaders and wealthy and yet still value their natural role as women who care, love and nurture our world, grow future generations, and be mindful of our environment and its future sustainability. Men are biologically primarily designed to be tough, warriors, competitors, providers; their natural testosterone drives that energy to go out, provide and hunt – and over the last century to build wealth in material form; they too seek to grow a world fit for their children and many want to nurture and grow into their family role in an equal role. However still many men don’t and aren’t necessarily as suited to stay home as women.

Can the two sides get together to forge a new conversation?

This is the conversation I desire to develop along with a new ‘gender dynamic’ blueprint where ‘building profit’ takes on a wider ‘wealth’ meaning aligned to emotional ‘life’ requirements. This is a conversation to forge a truly global collaboration that safeguards our threatened world; and to evolve a truly authentic socially responsible, sustainable future without losing the financial buoyancy we need to revive our economic stability.

In a world of constant disruption, do you feel lucky?

I know I have been lucky all my life even when times have been challenging (both personally and professionally) – and to be honest I believe the key to having ‘luck’ is believing in yourself and trusting that wherever you are, you are lucky to be alive. Sometimes in today’s world where ‘constant disruption’ is the most consistent aspect of our lives, many people feel unlucky. I feel enormously lucky to be a mature capable business woman in a world that needs ‘wise women’ at the top… and where men in business and in life…and in politics… are looking for a solution to a problem that has passed its sell-by-date!

At the Post Bureaucratic Network Conference Monday 21st February, the talk was about how we all deal with ‘constant disruption’ as the core nature of our problems and how we needed to build solutions based on transparency, technology and decentralization from the keynote speaker, David Cameron. Maybe so, I pondered on who deals with ‘constant disruption’ best and so the lucky ones in this moment in time.

Women are naturally brilliant at managing ‘constant disruption’ and all of those issues quoted above. Women only have to enter the realm of motherhood/parenthood to know that – to be running several roles at once, to have dependents in your life from elderly parents to sick or disabled family members, and hold a business role or run their own affairs – to know about how to manage ‘constant disruption’! And this is not to say men can’t do this some of the time; however it’s not so natural biologically for men who function best when focused on one task at a time. Men are essential to operational excellence and great when managing risk or certainty, and reducing collateral damage from the recessional fall out, however men generally don’t take the major dependency roles in the ‘home service arena’.

Once again it occurs to me that although men and women are designed to run this world together, this simple fact does not appear to speed up the changes we need. We want more women at the top but aren’t prepared to change the baseline rules and the language and behaviour that many male boardrooms exhibit. This is not about men at fault but about understanding that as well as the needs of the market we need to value the needs of women alongside men who have been in charge over 200 years, it is their natural default position. We moan about the numbers of women and quote ‘quotas’ from Norway and soon Spain and France. We keep on about the ‘glass ceiling’; yet we don’t think about a new script. Women and men together can change the plan – but this needs to be a conversation together. We could change the numbers and the quality of women in business easily if we redraw the script and build a new stage for the corporate world. The play might perform better and gain more applause from the audience. In many women-run business the evidence is already of more success and more longevity.

We need to go back to the drawing board if we are serious about changing main stream business at the top and right through. With a few simple changes in perspective, we can create, together, a desirable sustainable future where I hope we appreciate how lucky we all are to be the resources we naturally are.

Do we believe this yet? NO. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation … and I would be happily out of a role! We would already have the ‘right’ numbers of women at the top and in politics. We would have adapted the blueprint of business to encompass such things as multi-roles, dependency, maternity, parenthood, sickness and so much more that women are usually the prime owners.

I believe that we still have not entered the real conversation at the heart of our ‘troubles’ in a way that men listento women and women hear men. The core question is how do men and women truly share this world, what responsibilities come naturally and which are necessities we co-own? What needs are central to men and differently central to women – and what does business require to serve all for sustainable growth and healthy living for all in our society.
Is that a ‘pie in the sky’ idealistic view? Maybe, but I don’t apologize for this. I have too many magical conversations across so many sectors now that I know change is afoot and luck is on its way – if we look to notice it!

I believe we can co-create a great world where business and life co-exist and profit both social needs and material requirements. We can observe that when people value their own personal well-being and have healthy relationships, they work better, their brains function faster and when working well together as a community, they produce more innovative and successful results.

”Love and meaning” are freely available on this menu and so we are lucky as (if we choose) we can alter the course of our world, and each choose to utilize our natural value to its full – or to die. Sounds drastic but I see too many people in major businesses who are tired of the corporate stories, unsure of what their next step is, feel doomed to years of misery, men and women jaded with the lack of luck – or so they believe. Yet it is sitting right there inside them.

Was I born lucky? YES I chose a family who laughed, lived, loved and last a long time together. My mother is a lively 92, a wise and intelligent woman; my father (the wisest man I knew) died at 91 – I have a large family, brothers and sister, nephews and nieces, and my own two fabulous children. I am also very lucky to be blessed with an enjoyable motherhood period (past now), a long ex marriage, and now grand motherhood where my wisdom can give to and learn from a new generation who see the world afresh! Between my many roles (several in business and several in life), I observe my luck and am grateful daily for my path which is often challenged by ‘constant disruption’. I aim to do more, give back more, laugh more! I have an instinctive courage to keep going even when told I am being too optimistic!

As Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry said “do you feel lucky?” well I do – how about you? What choices will you notice, what luck will you take, it’s all around you – just take a look.