What Can Women Do To Challenge Gender Stereotypes In The C-Suite?

What Can Women Do To Challenge Gender Stereotypes In The C-Suite?

As I coach women currently in the workplace and lecture to IT women entering the workplace, I realize it’s a good time to write a blog about it to share.

Things are changing, but not as much as we would like

At times, the workplace culture for women seems to be sliding backward. I do see progress, but everyone—women and men—will have to work together to bring about the changes we all want to see. I touch on this in a recent blog, Best Tips And Tricks For Women To Work In Male-Dominated Industries.

A personal story I remember far too well

I was sitting in a meeting among only men. As I spoke, I realized the men were mentally doing other things. My remarks often went unheard, and were certainly disrespected.

In my book, Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business, Dolores Tyler tells the same story of being a woman, and a woman of color, in a meeting at The Detroit News. She was their best salesperson. Yet when she spoke, few listened and no one heard.

Working with women today, the dynamics are shifting somewhat, but it takes effort to break through the barriers set up by men. Women are getting tired of the micro-aggressions, from being told to smile more to being asked to take notes at a meeting or get the coffee for the table.

What can or should a woman do?

If women want to have a more equitable workplace, they must create it. It will not happen on its own. They must challenge the existing gender norms and stereotypes and must demand, yes demand, change. Is this your story? Here are eight tips to help you get started:

  1. Educate yourself: Before you can change gender biases, you need to have a good understanding of what they are and how they impact the workplace. Take time to read about the experiences of women in leadership positions, learn about the latest research on gender and leadership, and educate yourself on strategies for promoting diversity and inclusion.
  2. Educate others: After educating yourself, enlighten others. Encourage open dialogue among different gender and ethnic groups in your office and work together to create a culture that values everyone’s worthiness and ideas.
  3. Lead by example: If you are in a leadership position, make sure you model behavior that promotes gender equity. Actively seek out and promote women for leadership roles, create policies that support work-life balance and childcare needs, and advocate for equal pay and benefits.
  4. Welcome diverse perspectives: Encourage your team members to share their individual viewpoints and ideas, regardless of their gender. Make sure everyone’s input is valued and that decisions (and promotions) are based on merit rather than gender.
  5. Address biases: Be aware of your own biases and those of your colleagues. Challenge assumptions about what women and men are capable of, and encourage others to do the same. Hold yourself and others accountable for addressing biases and promoting gender equity. If you notice gender stereotypes or biases in the workplace, speak up immediately and address them.
  6. Mentor and sponsor women: If you are in a position of influence, use your power to mentor and sponsor women. Provide them with the support, resources and opportunities they need to succeed in the workplace.
  7. Advocate for change: Use your voice to advocate for change within your organization and beyond. Speak out against policies or practices that perpetuate gender stereotypes or discrimination, and work with others to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture.
  8. Advocate for yourself: Make sure your contributions are recognized and valued. Don’t be shy about negotiating for the salary, promotion or other opportunities you deserve and that will help you advance in your career. Build a supportive network of colleagues, mentors and sponsors who can help you navigate the workplace and push for your success. This can be particularly helpful for women who are underrepresented in their field.

These changes get to the core of culture and its power over people

Daily habits are difficult to observe or reflect upon. Conversations are not necessarily intelligent. The past remains hard-wired into the “way we do things.” If the world is going to change, women and men are going to have to be very intentional about changing it.

I often use the metaphor of theatrical productions when I am working with a client to change their culture. Life is a stage. The roles we play are the ones we know. But what if we could no longer sing that song or play that role? What if we had to stop playing Macbeth and now play Hamlet? Would we know the script or how to stand on stage and perform?

Changing a culture is not that different. This might be exactly the right time to re-write the script for your company. Let your team members and even top leadership help you write the new one. Then don’t go on stage without rehearsal time. They need practice and coaching. Then set a date by which things must change. A coach (internal or a hired consultant) helps, but it is leadership that must start the change process, embrace it and live it…literally.

At SAMC, we love to work with organizations that need or want to change

Let’s see how we can help you build a workplace culture that is equitable for women and men, and that capitalizes on the talent that both bring to that proverbial table. Contact us, we’d love to have a conversation. We also invite you to share your story on our podcast, On The Brink With Andi Simon. You can inquire about being a guest speaker here. Culture change is hard, but it can happen! Let us show you how.

From Observation to Innovation,
Andi Rethink
Andi Simon, Ph.D.
CEO | Corporate Anthropologist | Author