- Men: do you wonder what it would feel like to be treated like a woman in the workplace?
- Women: if you were in charge, would you change the corporate culture?
My definition of empathy is to see through the eyes, hear through the ears, and feel the world as others feel it. I have worked for, with, and supervised female leaders in organizations. I never thought about what the work experience was like for them. I had to address inappropriate male behavior occasionally. Based on what I have read and learned from female colleagues and friends’ unwanted sexual advances occur frequently.
My wife introduced me to the term: “female voice” when I was describing a book I was reading. Confused, I asked what she meant. She informed me that in many instances you can tell if a book was written by a man or woman based on the tone, syntax, and perspective of an author. So, I started paying closer attention to those things. I discovered that many of the books I chose to read were in “male voice”.
That epiphany is a metaphor for life. Until that point in my life, I had only known the male perspective; I thought that was all there was: I was wrong. I kept work and home separate; believing that one should not share personal issues, even if they intersect with work. My female colleagues saw it differently. One had a schedule conflict with her childcare professional, so she brought her child to work. Another was scheduled to give an important presentation when she learned her child was sick. After informing her boss she left to tend to the youngster. The presentation was delayed, but just as impressive. Those women taught me work-life balance. That is when I incorporated my “family first” philosophy.
The workplace continues to blend female voices in an environment almost exclusively dominated by male voices and norms. Women have benefited greatly from Affirmative Action initiatives and are ascending the corporate ladder, and a few have cracked the glass ceiling. Sexual harassment, inclusion, and equity programs are tamping down inappropriate comments and actions while addressing the gender pay gap.
Before the feminist movement, men used to call women the weaker sex. That is not true. It was only later in life that I realized what women must deal with or more accurately what we put them through. Getting married was great for men. Society told males who were married, now they have someone to do all the housework. As the world turns, males are expected to be a partner who shares the housework equally. I am not an equal partner yet, but I am working on it. I know a lot of men are not going to like what I’ve said, but how many of you would want to trade places with women in the workplace or at home?
Seeing organizations through the eyes of women and sharing power is a must, because “companies with the most gender diversity among executives were 25% more likely to outperform the market up from 15 % in 2014”. (Rita Men).