My message today is my opinion. It is based both on my direct experience, data and science. It’s a fact that implicit bias limits women’s opportunities and diminishes their positive impact. In spite of that, I find that when I talk about this needless loss of talent and contribution some men are very offended. Some women are also upset because they tell me they don’t want any special treatment because it makes them feel weak. My intention is not to offend men or trouble women who are content with the status quo. My intent is to elevate women in to senior leadership positions more rapidly so they can make more significant leadership contributions. I don’t think anyone should be against that. But if you are, it might be best if you stop reading what I have to say as I have no interest in upsetting you or getting tangled up in politics. I am just trying to do all the good that I can with all the energy that I can.
I marched with some very special women last Saturday because my mother taught me the golden rule. Most women are not treated according to that rule. Not most of the time.
I marched with my wife and one of my daughters.
I marched with my remarkable new son-in-law who’s young enough to understand the golden rule applies to everyone–women, men, children, minorities–everyone.
I marched because I am a fierce advocate for women who are willing to lead with their potent strengths of strategic empathy, inclusive collaboration, thinking versatility and most important, moral vision. The evidence is overwhelming that those strengths are the ones most needed if we want a future of sustainable abundance.
It was the first time in over six decades of life that I marched in the streets because in America women are stuck at token levels of leadership. The percentage of women CEOs, senior executives and board members has not risen in 15 years. That is a huge waste talent, vision and energy.
One of my granddaughters was at the front of the march in Park City, Utah with her high school class. This makes me hopeful.
I also marched with many men. These are men who support women. These are men who lead their own enterprises with their whole brain rather than just male drives and emotions. We are not anti-man, we are pro-civilization.
I marched because I am convinced that without women there would be no civilization. As it is, 9 out of every 10 years in recorded human history, men have been engaged in major wars, and 97% of violent crimes are committed by men. The reason is simple–testosterone fueled impulse control. However, I am not a simpleton. Not all women are good and smart, and not all men are shortsighted and selfish. But our current institutions disproportionately reward people who are ruthless, competitive, and money driven. So many times I have personally seen women leaders scapegoated for the misjudgments of incompetent males and frankly it makes me angry.
I marched because unless our culture of leadership changes our future is bleak. As technology becomes more powerful, fewer people are made more capable of creating catastrophic impacts. So, unless our leaders are both competent and wise, balanced and future facing, we will squander the opportunities of today, leaving a wreckage for our children to clean up.
I marched because leadership science has proved that in times of complexity and ambiguity women are more effective leaders. They simply see more and see farther than most men. Most men tend to oversimplify, commit the logical error of only looking for evidence that supports their opinions. Men tend to associate arrogance with competence and bullying with bravery. I have observed this behavior at the highest levels of large corporations for over 35 years.
I marched because women are much more likely to start and lead purpose-driven enterprises, while men are much more likely to be driven by money, status and power. That is why I believe that so many of our largest corporations make money through negative innovations that make our lives less healthy and less safe. Nearly every week, some bank like Wells Fargo or corporation like Volkswagen-Audi agrees to pay enormous fines as they get caught in their own whirlpool of corruption. Yet, investors are told this is simply a cost of doing business, and disgraced executives exit with tens of millions of dollars given in gratitude for their recklessness.
I march because women are community builders. Micro-loans granted to entrepreneurs in developing countries are nearly all exclusively given to women. That’s for two reasons. The first is that women are most successful at starting successful businesses. They are more likely to adapt their business models to changing conditions, create happy customers, employ loyal workers and help other female entrepreneurs get launched. Men are high-risk borrowers because they often spend their borrowings on liquor, gambling and prostitutes. As I said, without women I don’t believe there would be civilization.
I march because the people in charge seem to have a philosophy rooted in the primitive notion that people get what they deserve. This belief is especially attractive to people who have a lot and don’t want to feel responsible towards others who don’t. These people frequently say the cause of poverty is laziness. They believe in the discredited theory X version of human motivation, that the only reason people work is survival or greed. This is flat untrue. What is true, is Maslow’s now proven model of motivation–that most people work because it is intrinsically satisfying to create value by using our talent. That’s why we work so hard after our basic needs are met.
In my life I have seen that some of the hardest working people I have ever known are single mothers. I married my truly amazing wife over 17 years ago. For 14 years before we met she often worked two and sometimes three jobs to support her two children. There are over 10 million families in America today led by single women. Four and a half million of those families live below the poverty line. Over half the children being raised today have, or will spend part of their childhood raised by their single mother. These women are not poor because they don’t work hard. Yet, it never ends. One of the largest impoverished groups in America are single women over 65.
I marched because hard work is not the problem. The problem is that implicit bias limits women’s opportunities. The problem is that for equality and opportunity women need:
- access to early childhood education for their children
- affordable options for childcare
- equal pay and equal job opportunity
- workplace flexibility
- to be treated with respect, and
- married working women need husbands who genuinely share domestic responsibilities.
How fitting that the movie, Hidden Figures, is in theaters today. The story of how African-American women solved NASA’s high level math problems that made astronauts space travel possible. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. The movie will make you burn. To see how our prejudice against women and minorities has wasted human talent that could have been employed for decades, and must now be engaged to improve our world and the future, should ignite a desire for positive action in you. We need this effort on a mass scale.
As for me, the last 3 years of focusing on elevating women in leadership have led me to start A Million SMART Women. This will be my enduring public campaign to help empower women to leap forward in leadership at their workplace and in their communities.
I want women to become activists in their workplace. Corporate cultures are not changing through diversity programs. Women employees and women leaders need to directly ask senior management for changes in opportunities, sponsorship, and workplace policies and processes that are proven to improve both business performance and women’s engagement in work-life.
In a month or so, we will have an assessment that women can administer in their workplace so that we can publicize the best places for women to work , eventually in every community and country.
We’ll be providing you the science based facts and success stories to get pilot programs started in your workplace.
We are just starting. We want to build a big and vibrant community, and we need your help, so join us on Facebook and help us get started.
P.S. On February 28 in La Jolla I will be conducting a one day women’s leadership workshop. It’s called WE-Woman Effect. I’ve been teaching these workshops inside companies ranging from technology, bio-tech, insurance, financial services, law firms, retailers, all with the same effect…a clearer vision of your best career and life, stronger confidence in a more powerful voice, less stress and more well-being. I hope you can come, click here for details.
(Photo Credit: Times of San Diego, Chris Stone)