I was recently inspired by the #LikeAGirl campaign by Always. If you haven’t seen it – check it out below:
The campaign asks a bunch of older people what it means to do certain activities like a girl. What does it look like to run like a girl, fight like a girl, throw like a girl etc? People responded in an expected way – to run like a girl was flailing with your arms out (aka not running properly) and throwing like a girl was a pathetic attempt at a throw. They then asked young girls around the age of 10 the same questions. One girl was asked what she thought running like a girl was like and she said: “to run as fast as you can”. After so much progress for equality between the sexes, it would seem there is still a long way to go.
Unfortunately, our society today has a warped view of women and what it means to be female. Women are seen as fragile, as if they must be protected or they will break. In the 2018 list of Fortune 500 companies, there are only 5% female CEOs. After reaching an all-time high of 32 in 2017, the number of female Fortune 500 chiefs has slid back down to 24. That’s a one-year decline of 25% (fortune.com). Even worse than that is there are some countries and regions where there are no female CEOs or CFOs AT ALL, like Austria, Greece, Portugal, the whole of Eastern Europe and more… (based on 2016 data from here).
Why do we have so few women in leadership positions? Is it because to “lead like a girl” is bad leadership? Based on the study below by pew, women are actually naturally better at certain aspects of leadership than men.
Looking specifically at corporate leadership, 43% say women are better at creating a safe and respectful workplace; 52% say there is no difference, while just 5% say men are better at this. And while majorities say there is no difference between male and female leaders when it comes to valuing people from different backgrounds, considering the impact of business decisions on society, providing guidance and mentorship to young employees, and providing fair pay and good benefits, those who do see a difference tend to give women the advantage.
One of the key aspects of creating a productive team and organisational culture is trust and safety because it empowers people and motivates them. Based on the results above, it would seem women are naturally better at that than men! So, to #LeadLikeAGirl is actually a pretty awesome thing – not an insult. To #LeadLikeAGirl means you are better at empowerment and motivation, and if that is the case, I think we all need to #LeadLikeAGirl!
“We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave” – Reshma Saujani
I think one of the biggest obstacles to women is this fragile treatment they all get from a young age. We let our sons go out and climb trees, get muddy, fall over and pick themselves up, to be independent and yet with our girls we tell them they look pretty, that they shouldn’t go out there and get muddy, that if they fall over we will be there to pick them up. We teach our girls to be afraid of risk, to be afraid of failure by telling them they are perfect and they need to hold this image of perfection. We teach them that they are fragile and need to tread with care. We don’t teach them to take risks, to jump first ask questions later, that it is OK to fail and it is OK to not be perfect because no one is perfect and that they are more than just a pretty little girl. We need to give our girls and women we know the opportunity to take risks, to be brave and put themselves out there. Women are strong and smart and do not need to be protected. We need to shatter our damsel in distress image that we overlay on women because it is keeping them down and preventing them from being at their best.
So what can you do as a male leader to help restore the balance and fight for equality? Start by showing the world what it means to #LeadLikeAGirl. Do not hide opportunities from women because you think they are too fragile – give them the chance. Give women in your teams and organisations the opportunity to take risks – to fail safely – let them know it’s OK to not be perfect. Most importantly – see them as your equal because they are. Every single person in the world is unique and different – but every single person in the world is still a person. You are equals.
My wife is one of the strongest, most inspirational people I know on this earth. If doing something like a girl meant being a little bit more like her – I would be honoured, not insulted. Let’s change the meaning and show the world that doing something #LikeAGirl is not a bad thing!
“There’s never been a better time to be woman. We live in an era when girls are told they can do anything. So why aren’t we seeing more women rising to the top ranks of corporations and the government? Why don’t our girls have more women in leadership roles to look up to?
Women Who Don’t Wait in Line is an urgent wake-up call from politico and activist Reshma Saujani. The former New York City Deputy Public Advocate and founder of the national nonprofit Girls Who Code argues that aversion to risk and failure is the final hurdle holding women back in the workplace. Saujani advocates a new model of female leadership based on sponsorship—where women encourage each other to compete, take risks, embrace failure, and lift each other up personally and professionally.”
Also, well worth checking out her TED talk below, it is truly inspiring.