I can’t change the world-My legwarmers and leadership clash!

10 Mar

Build your leadership skills so that you can change the world. That mantra expresses my world view.  And it focuses mostly on building external leadership skills.  However, recently, I was reminded that internal leadership is as important as external leadership.  In 2010, we work in a workplace where women leaders are prevalent and their leadership style is considered the WAY to do business.

But some of us are stuck in the 80s.

This weekend a twitter friend, @heidiekmassey, sent me an article posted in the New York Times entitled ” Neither Men Nor Mice” by Peggy Klauss, a career coach.   The gist of the article advises women to adjust their communication styles in the workplace.  Specifically:

Ultimately, women must be more mindful and use greater finesse when conveying messages.  We need to be better chameleon communicators and to carefully read our audience, adjusting our style to the circumstances.

That is a nice nugget of advice.  It makes sense.  And it should apply to both MEN and WOMEN.  But, when  I read it  she was only applying this advice to women.  And it was then that the time warp to shoulder pads, Reeboks  and manly suits began.  I was in the 80s’ and it was not pretty.  Simply put:

The rest of  this column  illustrates a short sighted, lazy view of the workplace that reinforces the perception that todays workplace culture is governed by men and what men want.

This is not  the movie, ” Baby Boom” where women who are  senior leaders in the workplace are still a “novelty” .   It is 2010 – women are a force in the workplace, our skills are valued as the new leadership skills necessary in the workplace and that training more women leaders is what is  going to move innovation in every sector forward.

New York Times , you let this Coach  sell women and women leaders short .

Here are some very choice snippets that got under my skin.

  1. Either you are the victim or the B*&^tch

From the article:

Women still deal with a well entrenched double standard when it comes to gender acceptable behavior.  Because of that, they often fall victim to self defeating actions that can undercut their careers. The may assume a strident ” command and control” approach  or else turn passive.

Well, that is certainly reinforcing an outdated stereotype. Isn’t it?   I don’t think that this standard is  still entrenched.  The image of  women in the workplace is not relegated to only these two extremes.    To give advice to women and state that they are operating in only these two atmospheres undermines what the current workplace is currently focussed on: intergrating more of womens leadership styles into the workplace.  It undermines the tremendous presence of women leaders in every single sector of the workplace.

In ” Women Leaders:  The Hard Truth about Soft Skills,” the author states:

Organizations should also be exploring how women change the leadership equation, both in terms  of the strength they bring to an organization and the barriers they still face.

Yes, there are barriers.  Equal Pay? Still not a dollar for a dollar.  Representation on Board Of Directors , still at less than 20 %.   There are problems indeed; but do not tell me that the way for it to get better is to mold myself to the communication style of men.

2.  Accept this as the normal

The column states:

But as long as the stereotypes remain all powerful and are perpetuated by men and women alike, it is necessary to navigate them.

Are the stereotypes of the Victim or the Bitch still all powerful and do women continue to perpetrate the stereotypes?   I don’t think so .   I wonder if that is my vantage point of the workplace as a Gen Xer.  I don’t know people in my age group or in Gen Y who are willing to operate in a workplace where ” this is a man’s world” is the modus operandi.  So, I don’t know who is doing the perpetrating, but it is not coming from any workplace that I know of.

Here is the stereotype I think is more prevalent.  In a study conducted by Business Week and the Hays Group, the study found that:

Company female executives were significantly more likely that their male counterparts to coach and develop others and to create a more committed, collaborative, inclusive and ultimately more effective teams.

Ms. Klauss- until you decide to advance women’s leadership a little bit further and hold MEN and women accountable for the new workplace,  then your advice is not worth much to me.  We as women, as leaders, as workers, as doers are here.  We have shaped the workplace of today and we will continue to shape the workplace of tomorrow.

Now, move out the way, I got some “change” to do!

All Fired Up,


One Response to “I can’t change the world-My legwarmers and leadership clash!”

  1. Mazarine April 17, 2010 at 6:14 am #

    Dear Ericka,

    Thank you for writing about this. Gender politics and gender bias are not as simplistic as “victim or bitch” and any article that makes them out to be this way is trying to dumb down the discourse to the point that it’s almost on a child’s level.

    As Santayana says, “It is easier to be master of a false philosophy than a real one, for a false philosophy may be made as simple as you choose.”

    I’m going to be writing a nuanced post about gender bias on May 1st, would love to see your comment there.


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