The time for change feels ripe. Transformation seems to be in the air. Could this be the time for women to demand more equality in the workplace?
I do feel women should demand parity in pay, recognition, and access to resources and opportunities. It's time they are more fully represented at senior levels and able to participate in decision-making. Short of creating an uprising, there is another way to influence change:
If women aren't accepted into the "good ole boys club" at work they can create a better, more attractive club.
I'm delighted to share the following story written by organizational psychologist and president of Germane Consulting, Dr. Anne Perschel. Get your sunglasses, grab your beach blanket and imagine the following scene of children playing in the sand:
"Seven boys, age five to eight, are engineering an intricate series of dams and rivers by the water's edge. They even build a small hot tub and are enjoying their time in this mini spa when along come the girls -- first one, then two. As the third attempts to find a seat in the tub, two boys protest. "No girls allowed."
The girls argue but eventually move along. Minutes later the mothers arrive and demand equal rights for the girls. The boys protest, but the mothers stand guard as the girls are begrudgingly allowed in the tub.
Clearly everyone is having less fun. As soon as the guards leave, the chanting begins anew, "No girls allowed."
The scene repeats several times. Eventually, the mothers become distracted and the girls grow tired of trying.
Then one lone girl starts to dig a short distance from the boys. She is far enough to maintain respect for the rule of separation but close enough for the engineers and construction workers to see her. Other girls join in. They build elaborate scenes creatively using beach flora, fauna and debris to make bridges, houses, trees and people.
A curious boy inches his digging project closer to girls' scene. Within minutes he connects his trench to their landscape. Other boys take note and edge closer. They build connecting roads as well. Soon the groups' combined engineering and creative talents result in a complex and ingenious landscape filled with people, cars, pets, trenches, dams and a bigger co-ed hot tub."
If you can't make your leaders acknowledge your efforts and promote you the same as men, you can go do something more profound.
In the last company I worked for, I kept suggesting to the senior leaders that we use teams to find solutions to perennial problems that were hindering our progress. My idea fell on deaf ears. So I found a champion in the Manager of Quality. Together, we created a cross-functional improvement team and began to tackle some longstanding issues in innovative ways. Eventually, other departments began asking what we were doing. Within a year, using cross-functional teams for product development as well as problem solving became part of the culture. I was given both a promotion and funds for a learning center.
Another option: instead of trying to force issues or crack the glass ceilings, many women are taking their assets and creating their own sandboxes. The National Association of Women-Owned Businesses (NAWBO) reports that in 2008, there were 10.1 million firms owned by women (accounting for 40 percent of all privately held firms), employing more than 13 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion. In my own research, I found many women defecting from male-dominated corporations to start their own businesses. This number may have decreased during the recession, but it is predicted the retention of both male and female top talent will be out of control once the economy stabilizes.
My vision is that in the new sandboxes, men and women play well together, honoring each other's strengths and gifts. Maybe it is time we quit trying to break down the old structures. Instead, let's create our own visions, jobs and companies to be so attractive that the most competent people will want to play with us. Define a clear picture of what is right, purposeful and profitable, find champions to support your ideas and find a creative way to make it happen.
I still honor those who choose to continue the noble fight. And I applaud the innovators who are creating a revolution using the power of attraction instead of force.
Marcia Reynolds, PsyD is an executive coach and author of Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. She teaches classes worldwide on emotional intelligence and leadership. You can read more about Dr. Reynolds at www.outsmartyourbrain.com.