The stats that came out yesterday from the Australian Gender Equality Agency make for a sobering, if not unsurprising read. There is no doubt that progress has been made around gender equality in the workplace. For example there has been a small increase in key management personnel who are women (28.5%) and appointments of women to management role at 42.6%. However, that men earn nearly &27,000 a year more than women and 5 out of 6 CEO’s are men, indicate that there is a long way to go yet.
The reasons for this are multiple, complex, interrelated and too many to explore in one article. Reasons that relate both to societies view of and expectations of women and the expectations they have of themselves. They include entitlement, confidence and fear of change both personal and in relation to a broader society. One reason that both feeds into and impacts on all of the others is how women are portrayed as leaders in popular media.
Have a look at the pictures below. I found these pictures when I tried to use clipart to find some empowering pictures of women leading for a talk I was giving. I found the pictures by typing in clip art search, the following terms:
As you can see, far from the empowering images I was seeking, what I found was a number of stereotypes that tell a different story. Not very empowering are they?
Source clip art February 2016
This is an important visual story. Pictures paint a thousand words and similar images are in films, media and advertising. They are everywhere and we don’t consciously notice them. Unconsciously though, they reinforce the status quo and belittle women. They belittle our capabilities, impact our confidence and make us and our leadership at best invisible, at worst appear incompetent.
Add to this how women leaders are described. Below are a few of the words commonly used to describe male and female leaders who are exhibiting the same behaviors.
Women Leaders Male Leaders
Scary Cut Throat
Just like a man
Source: How to beat the female leadership stereotypes, The Guardian 9.12.13
These words are commonly heard and seen in relation to visible women leaders. They have the potential to significantly influence the way women perceive themselves as both women and as leaders. Notice how negative and one-dimensional they are. Also notice the differences between the visual and verbal stereotypes. From incompetent to despotic – which are we? The answer of course is neither and we do not have to believe these stereotypes. We do not have to try them on for size. They, like all stereotypes do not describe the complexity of reality.
Despite that, these pervasive labels have the potential to erode women’s individual and collective confidence. They keep women faithful to the safety of the ‘good girl’ image because the associated caricatures and archetypes are worse.
Our collective challenge as a society, despite the range of barriers related to these stereotypes, is for both men and women to recognize them and challenge them through conversation. In this small way, we can collectively support and encourage a different way forward so that women don’t stand alone when they choose to step up and contribute as both leaders and to the leadership conversation.
If you think leadership coaching would better enable you to either embrace your inner leader or support women as their leader, please give Debra a call on 0421 775 924 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Strengths Finder Assessment and Feedback
Doing Strengths Finder coaching has enabled me to see how I can make the most of my natural abilities. The test itself outlined 5 particular strengths but it was the coaching that meant I now know how to actually utilise this information. It is going to help me a great deal when it comes to my academic life and in particular how I can study in the most effective way. The coaching helps access the key to knowing your strengths and Deb has helped me devise a plan of how I can move forward with these skills. Her work with me has been vital to the Strengths Finder process and I would absolutely recommend the coaching as vital to finding your strengths.
Family Harmony Workshop for Parents
The course gave a great framework to build a more harmonious family - I find it difficult to explain to my teens why I don't like their behaviour but with this toolkit I am able to articulate this easily and less emotionally, resulting in better communication and a less charged atmosphere. Thanks Deb for the lifeline
Team Building Facilitation and Coaching
As a new Manager to a newly formed team of eight staff, I engaged Deb to facilitate our first team planning day. The objective of the day was to identify a shared vision and to start a process of strategic planning for the next three years. The day was a great success and set the team up with greater clarity of purpose and a framework for future planning.
Deb demonstrated a great understanding of the team, its context and challenges. This was due to her careful and thorough planning and reflections prior to the day. Deb managed the varying levels of engagement among the team exceptionally well; she did this with the establishment of clear ground rules and a sense of trust and respect. Deb listened actively and regularly questioned for greater clarity before reflecting on the team’s contributions.
We ended the day with a clear vision that was shared and in which all members felt they had an investment. Deb followed up regularly after the session to check in on progress and to provide advice about next steps. We were extremely lucky to have been able to work with Deb at this important stage of the team’s development and I would not hesitate for a moment in engaging Deb again.
Angela Hehir, (Manager)
Business Leadership Coaching
Debra's help in getting me to focus on the strategic direction of my business and my work-life priorities has proven invaluable. She has the ability to ask simple questions to create greater clarity and focus in both work and personal goals. Debra is a great listener, follows up on her clients and creates a great support base for her clients through recommending network groups, courses and reading material. For those who want a leadership coach that goes that extra mile,
I highly recommend her.
Yvette Audet, Sport & Recreation Management Services
360 degree feedback and Mentoring
Debra provided feedback on my 360 leader/manger profile. I have taken this style of development tool on two prior occasions and found the feedback underwhelming. This time I found that Debra has an empathetic and approachable feedback style. Previously I have felt very much that I was being placed in a stereotypical box.
I liked Debra,s approach and understood more that the outcomes of the survey reflect a favored management leadership style and this could be flexible. Debra is able to draw out your thoughts on how you feel others perceive you rather than preaching which was a great attribute.
We talked about the outcomes and the way forward and I was left with a comfortable feeling that I could achieve my higher aims. Debra provided positive feedback and kept in contact after the initial interview. Her trouble in organizing some key topic papers and net links was commendable. I hope very much to take Debra up on some future mentoring and would highly recommend Debra’s leadership skill set to you.
Professor Tim Lyons, Newcastle
Concrete personal career goals
I have appreciated my coaching sessions this year more than I can say. Deb has challenged me at every turn which I have loved, making me work hard to find my own solutions during an extremely professionally challenging year. This has been extremely satisfying.
I also now have concrete personal career goals and a plan on how to get there – non existent when I started coaching and really not something I consciously thought I needed. As a consequence I feel more focused and motivated for the next year and beyond.
Finally I would have to say my coaching session with Deb have been an absolute lifeline for me this year, keeping me on track, helping me to grow and learn and ultimately make a monumental shift in my approach and style as a leader. I am very grateful for her time, patience, humor and professionalism – I am certainly am better leader thanks to coaching with Deb.
Bernadette Hollis, Sydney