Election Prove it to be Shatterproof?
In the run up to the first Presidential debate, this tweet summed up the double standard that exists for women today. The advice given the two debaters?
Funny—yes. Painfully true? Well, yes…
As female entrepreneurs, we wake up every day believing we can make a change. We believe in our power, our passion and our path. So why doesn’t the rest of the world see us in the same light? This year, 2016, is supposed to be the Year of the Woman. For the first time, there is a hugely credible chance that we will (finally!) have a woman in the White House. Yet why does progress seem so damn slow? Perhaps because it is. Although we believe there is a clear path upwards paved with hard work, empathy and passion, the real world seems to offer us something that more closely resembles Chutes and Ladders: one wrong move and we find ourselves starting over, a bit worse for the wear. So perhaps that’s why this election year looms so large for us—it’s a chance to really examine, on the public stage, the status of women and achievement today.
In a recent Pew Research Center (a trusted non-partisan fact tank) study, people were asked about the key factors holding women back from top jobs today, in both business and the political sector. Their answers might surprise you. Overwhelmingly, the two most frequent responses were “women are held to higher standards” and “people aren’t ready to hire or elect women into those roles.” The complexity of child care and personal ‘toughness’ were not key factors, rather, it was the belief system of those who hold the power to promote.
Whether you are Team Hillary or Team Trump (hmmm—notice first name/last name discrepancies, anyone? ) the status of women in leadership, particularly in this election year, speaks to deeper issues we, as women, are all still grappling with: the constant battle waged between competence and likability.
It’s a tightrope so many of us must navigate every day. This issue has become so visible and concerning, that Harvard conducted research on the causes and outcomes. Their results posit that inspiring leadership comes down to a combination of (conventionally) masculine and feminine characteristics—competence (ability to lead) and warmth (trustworthiness, empathy, connection). In the past, women have been known to flatten their emotional or feminine side in order to appear viable as leaders. However, this severity often leads to a diagnosis as cold, or unlikable, seemingly lacking in the charm and warmth that defines a natural leader. So where is the middle ground? Perhaps that middle ground is simply a work-around.
The one arena where women have seen increasing success is that of entrepreneurship. Pirates, gangsters, hackers and women know that when you can’t go straight through, sometimes it’s smart to simply go around. The number of women helming their own businesses continues to grow, outpacing men. Is it perfect? No. Women still only account for 84 cents of every dollar a male entrepreneur makes, but that continues to change for the better as well. And, in this space of their own making, they are allowed to bring their whole selves to the workplace.
The world is changing. The Hillary of 2016 is different and more open than the one we saw in 2008. She speaks of a need for more love and kindness. She speaks of being a grandmother. And we are seeing this across the board. As a sort of cultural backlash, the new generation of female leaders is speaking out for a warmer, more emotionally resonant leadership style. 2016 may not wrap up as being a banner year for women, particularly for women leaders. However, at a time when fear and hostility seem to outpace our hope and belief in a better world, the opportunity to lead with “pink” skills sounds like a really good plan. The term “charisma” is derived from the Greek for “gift of grace.” Grace is a term often associated with women, and their seeming innate grit and ability to make their way through the toughest of times with constancy, serenity and purpose. Perhaps we need to redefine what we mean when we speak of a charismatic leader? Empathy, compassion, openness and love—these are attributes the whole world needs. Ladies, let’s show them how it’s done!
For more fascinating trend insights from Lynn Casey, visit: shinescout