Picture this, it’s 2055 and 51% of all CEOs and world leaders are women. That world looks totally different, doesn’t it? It’s not the same environment we’ve grown accustomed to. If we were to sit here and picture this new normal, what would we say were the steps that got us there?
In 2022, the workplace still isn't really an inclusive space for women. It’s not that it was designed to hurt us, just that it was designed without us. With most things in life, the way we plan for the future is by analyzing the past, and for workspaces, the past was predominantly male. From characteristics we attribute with success to benefits we deem appealing to candidates, we are looking at what worked in the past and using that to inform our future decisions. When women entered the workforce, they were trained and expected to fit into the mold that was built before they arrived, and we continue to force women (and frankly, many other marginalized groups, as well) into this ill-fitting box, instead of taking the time to understand and leverage the unique set of skills and abilities they bring with them.
But with a little bit of work and understanding, we can begin to rebuild our work culture.
First and foremost, let’s rewire our own thinking and shed the notion that male characteristics are more desirable.That tall, cut-throat, cocky CEO in a designer suit fallacy is outdated. We’re entering into a new era where consumers actually care about real issues, like the environment and mental health, it only makes sense to have leadership that reflects those values. Just because we haven’t seen too many short, kind-hearted and accepting CEOs in leggings doesn’t mean we have to separate ourselves from those traits. Lean into what makes you and other women special and use that to stand out versus conforming to what you think businesses want to see.The more women who do this and succeed, the better role models we have for the next generation to grow up accustomed to these female leaders being themselves.
Rewiring the way you think doesn’t come easy, a helpful tip to recognize if something is based on this past fallacy is asking “why do I/you think that?”. For example, let’s say someone gets a promotion and your first thought is “they totally deserve that promotion, they’re so confident”. Ask yourself why you think that, and the answer might be that they speak more in meetings and sometimes over other people, and you see that as a sign of power, as that’s exactly how all the male CEOs you’ve worked with have been. So it’s not that they’re confident or that they have the right qualities to perform in that role, it’s that they remind you of other men in power that you’ve worked with. Continue to challenge your thought process and start to recognize and vocalize these patterns that hold women back.
It’s easy to replicate what we’ve always done, it’s human instinct to cling to the safety of the familiar and the comfort of traditions. To break this pattern, we have to show others that past performance isn’t the best indication of future performance. Make your opinion heard, give public praise to the women you work with for things that are unique to them, and teach young girls that what makes them different can make them successful..
Let’s end this with a fun exercise. Think about a female leader that you really admire. What is it about her that makes her very successful? List out all of those traits. Do any of these traits stand out to you as unique, different from what you’ve seen in other male leaders? What would it look like to have more leaders with that trait?
For me I think of Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, she’s known for leading with kindness and empathy. She’s the first world leader to bring their baby to the UN general assembly, she was still breastfeeding the 3 month old at the time and had to bring her on the long trip. Imagine the types of conversations the other male leaders had, it might have helped dawn what it’s like for new mothers to go back into the workforce. With more leaders like that I can see a future with more affordable child care options, better parental leave, and maybe, just maybe equal pay. All of these would also then lead to more women in leadership positions.
Seems like an awesome future to me, so, 2055, here we come!