Big Generational Shift: Gen Y women possess new world leadership qualities and will break the glass ceiling
In The New World Marketplace, businesses are redefining the new leadership skills and capabilities required for building and sustaining successful and profitable businesses. And Gen Y women have a natural advantage in contributing to this new leadership construct.
All the research I’ve done over the years suggests that Gen Y women are far more career focused, confident of themselves, have clear views on equality of men and women at workplace as well as at home, and have demonstrated that with passion and commitment with their families, versus prior generations. They are able to grow successfully with the progressive organizations and make a significant impact.
But don’t take my word for it. A McKinsey report shows that companies with gender-balanced executive committees have a 56% higher operating profit compared to companies with male-only companies. Another study conducted by Catalyst shows a 26% difference in return on invested capital between companies with 19-44% women board directors as compared with those who had no women on their boards. Hence increasingly businesses are working towards hiring and retaining larger percentage of women in their workforce.
Why are women contributing to higher success? These studies indicate reasons through women’s unique characteristics that businesses can benefit from namely, multitasking, paying attention to detail, conflict resolution, ability to deal with fuzziness, flexibility and creativity required for problem solving. These are some of the key capabilities in demand today as businesses are redefining the new leadership capabilities required for building and sustaining successful businesses.
Those of you reading my blogs regularly know that I stand against stereotyping based on gender. So, I must add that men possessing these qualities are and will be just as successful of leaders as women—yet, it’s hard to dispute that women in general, and Gen Y women in specific, have a natural inherent advantage with these qualities and are not afraid to express them.
This article suggests that another significant factor that makes Gen Y women stand out is the fact that they have embraced digital technology with ease. They are savvy consumers of technology and are certainly more comfortable with gadgets and devices as compared to Gen X women and on par with Gen Y men. Technology has played an important role in liberating Gen Y women from lack of awareness and exposure to the world at large and making them more confident. IT/ITES industry in India has close to 30-35% Gen Y women as part of the workforce competing for prime career opportunities impacting the global corporations with their technology prowess.
And of course, you’ve heard me say for years that Gen Y women view success as being able to shape their own path and future. Sure, they like to get married and have kids, but not at the same rate as previous generations, and certainly not at the expense of their career and social/cultural equality with men.
So, here’s the big question: Will Gen Y women be first to break the glass ceiling? Research predicts YES….!!!
We keep hearing from feminist leaders that despite all the empowerment initiatives out there for women, at the current rate, we will never close the gender gap in business leadership. And I’ve been saying all along that is not true….not at the current rate of women in mid-management levels, rapid rate of retirement for baby boomers, and the business cultural shifts we are experiencing. Now, there is research from global talent solutions company, Hudson, supporting my prediction and proving that women in their twenties and early thirties will be the first generation to break the glass ceiling.
According to the results, which analysed 28,000 psychometirc tests across 20 different countries, Gen Y females scored 18% higher than Gen Y males on organization, 10% higher on people skills and 12% higher on social confidence. When compared to Baby Boomer males, the difference in skill areas became more acute: Younger females ranked 16% higher on people skills, 22% higher on social confidence and 21% higher on ambition.
As it relates to traditional leadership skills, this research shows baby boomers were 28% more decisive than Gen Y….and Gen X 13% more strategic than Gen Y. I think this is certainly correlated to age and experience on the job.
The need for persuasive, confident and extravert leaders has been replaced by socially confident and organized bosses, who have the people skills to manage the shifting demographics of tomorrow’s workforce.
Simply look around, and you will see that today’s workforce is truly multi-generational. This is a global phenomenon. And with the rapid rate of retirement of baby boomers, the work force is being replaced by a generation with huge psychological differences and gender balance. And once again, the leadership attributes found in Gen Y women display attributes of tomorrow’s leaders.
It’s true that 80% of executive directors on the boards of the FTSE 100 may currently be male, but the findings of this research show that, as business practice continues to evolve and progress, Gen Y women are better placed than ever before to position themselves at the top of businesses over the next decade and possess all of the right skills to help them navigate a technologically data-driven future.
“With their chart-leading altruism and optimism, and their progressive people skills, these women will lead by laying out a vision and welcoming those who want to take part,” the report said.
The New World Marketplace leaders and bosses will look very different than the leaders and the bosses we have today. They must understand these disruptive cultural and demographic shifts and support the generational evolution.
Are you ready to shift in 2015?
Finally….!!! There is a study that proves what I have been saying for years. This study shows that when women and millennials (aka Gen Y) are in charge, big things happen and organizations succeed. This is not a passing trend. Having millennials and women in leadership positions directly correlates with the success of a company.
The Global Leadership Forecast looked at the workforce issues affecting 13,124 leaders from around the world, representing 48 countries and 32 major industries. Of the participating organizations, those in the top 20% financially had almost twice as many women in leadership roles, as well as more high-potential women holding those roles. Does gender diversity pay off? Yes…!!! Absolutely…..!!!
Also, companies with a 30% proportion of young people in higher roles saw “aggressive growth,” according to the study. When it’s more like 20%, they saw “little to low growth” rates. Granted, they leave organizations faster (within a year) and less engaged than other groups, but those are opportunities for companies to overcome. But how can we ignore the success results of having women in leadership roles?
Even beyond the business success, there is all the life ending crises around the globe. Heart breaking. I couldn’t even get myself to write a business blog lately. Who would want to read about cultural change and macro trends when faced with such never ending wars of domination and control? I even read Gaza-tweets saying women should stop having children until men learn not to kill them. Then I thought, it’s the leadership, stupid….always has been and always will be. What this study doesn’t cover is what would happen if we had more women and millennials in political leaderships. Would things be different? I’d say…Yes….!!!
Sure, as long as there is life, there is death. Can I say as long as there is love, there is war. Maybe. But can we move the needle by stepping into the New World order and starting to change our existing homogeneous leadership in businesses and politics. If not for a better world to live in, for higher profit for all. Let’s start sharing these studies.
Work/Life balance has been in the forefront of business productivity plans for over a decade as more women entered the work force in management positions and contributed to better company performance. What started out as a gender issue, later became a generational issue, and now it’s a cultural issue. With 70% of US moms working in 2014, the cultural conversation has shifted from whether women should work outside of home to how do we understand the needs and values of the working parents, and tailor policies accordingly, to attract and retain the best talent regardless of gender and/or generation. Talent is a company’s most powerful sustainable competitive advantage. These valuable insights are extremely important in branding strategies of your value propositions to the new world marketplace customers as well.
WMRI (Working Mother Research Institute) recently conducted a fascinating study on 3 generations of men and women that make up majority of the work force now: Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1980) and Gen Y, aka millennials (1981-2000). Interesting similarities and differences between generations of parents as it relates to the best ways to manage work and personal lives….clearly common grounds for all working parents as well as areas where generational and gender attitudes diverge…..
Do you remember Gen X being referred to as slackers years ago? They earned this reputation mainly because they were the first generation that demanded work/life balance. For work-centric boomers, they were slackers. Can you imagine what Boomer bosses are going through now with Millennials? I’ve spoken to many business leaders who stereotype and mischaracterize Millennial’s love and expectation of work/life balance as laziness and lack of ambition, versus a cultural shift and thoughtful re-prioritization of personal and family values.
This WMRI extensive study clearly outlines that Gen Y moms feel far more optimistic and happy than previous generations—mostly because of the support they are receiving from their spouses (as equal active partners) but also from their parents and managers. Gen-Xers tend to be stressed often viewing work as a financial necessity…but they are ambitious, highly educated and tech savvy, and overwhelmingly part of the dual-earner couples. And baby boomers feeling stretched as new demands of caring for parents, retirement and aging are upon them….hard to imagine when they find the time to look and feel younger than their age. The only group that outshine Millennials in their optimism is the female breadwinners—in every category. Interesting, huh?
Couple of surprises about Millennials, even for me…although they are cheery about family finances (64%), pleased with their relationship with their spouses and partners (71%) and were even happier about contributions fathers make in caring for their children (73%)…and although this generation is more career-minded than the previous two….they are more conflicted about child care and career. Most agree that one parent should be home to care for the kids (60%) and home when a child gets there (83%). And this is the generation that feels free to choose between work and staying home and they figure out how. Don’t be surprised if Millennial parents choose to stay at home for some years during their career. Providing flexibility may or may not be enough for them. More than half of all men and women in Gen Y think flex causes work to interfere with family time. So separation of work and family is more important to them. And encouraging unplugging even more so, specially at nights, weekends, vacations, etc.
Depending on your perception, this may emphasize some stereotypes about laziness and sense of entitlements for this generation, but like it or not, this is the future work force. Millennial’s need to unplug is not to avoid hard work, but to help them fuel for the job—whereas boomers and Gen X’ers liked the always-on, always-connected work culture that gave them flexibility of working remotely. Let’s not mischaracterize these cultural shifts in needs and values. The always-on fatigue is somewhat evident in previous generations.
What everyone wants most in the workplace, no matter the gender or generation, are job security and stability, competitive earnings and flexible schedule and culture. But communicating each for different generations may be very different. The key is ensuring that the flex options match the needs of each life stage.
Here’s the common ground regardless of gender or generation…top 3:
- Couples should have equal input of how income is used no matter who earns what
- Children should be cared for equally by both parents
- Work and personal time should be kept separate
Now ask yourself if your current business practices and policies support these values? How about your branding and marketing strategies? I’m starting to see a few fathers in commercials but are we representing working parents both equally caring for children and deciding on spending? Think about it…this is a huge opportunity.
I have written about many studies that have shown that Millennial dads are more enthusiastic and engaged with their kids than previous generations. The latest Pew research released this month revealed that more dads are staying home with the kids. Although this study did not break down by generation, it showed an overall rise of stay at home dads in recent years. High unemployment rates around the great recession contributed to this increase, but the biggest contributor to long-terms growth is number of fathers who stay at home primarily to care for their family. Even more interesting and noteworthy is that working fathers with children under 18 are just as likely as working mothers to say that it is difficult to balance work and family. Roughly equal shares of working fathers (48%) and mothers (52%) prefer to be at home raising their children, but they need to work because they need the income.
These are the trends that will likely have dramatic impact on workplace policies in the not-so-distant future for both mothers and fathers. And they should have dramatic impact on your marketing and branding strategies today and onward. Do you want to have a powerful competitive differentiation and advantage? Start embracing these cultural shifts in needs and values.
Are you ready for the shift?
Keep staying informed, and please share your thoughts and comments below….
Do you know the underlying needs and values to address women effectively? 10 questions to ask your strategy team
Since the Wave 5 of the Ipsos MediaCT Audience Measurement Group came out earlier this month about Women, Power & Money, I read myriad of articles on the web. There was one in particular by MediaPost which intrigued me, examining American women’s lives, lifestyles and marketplace choices across three generations—Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers. I thought the findings identified cultural shifts in women’s priorities and how women are shaping the leadership and financial course of The New World Marketplace. Of course, as an X-CMO, I thought they were all missing what companies and brands should do differently with their strategic positioning and branding messages with these new findings. But that is why you are here, reading my blog.
There is no doubt that, despite gender lags in pay and salary negotiations, American women are feeling increasingly empowered, independent, knowledgeable and successful. According to Allianz women money and power research, women made up half of all stock-market investors and controlled 48% of estates worth more than $5 million in 2006-2007. By 2011 women controlled over 50% of the United States’ wealth, and 60% of women with business degrees out-earn their husbands and describe themselves as primary breadwinner. And according to the latest U.S. Census, regardless of educational attainments, women out-earn their male partners in 22% of households….while this is not a big number worth bragging, it is a far cry from Cinderella archetype.
However, there are radically differing perceptions of financial responsibilities between women and men, says the report. Women perceive controlling day-to-day spending, with ¾ or more feeling responsible for household purchases, while big-ticket purchases are considered joint responsibility. Men perceive differently, seeing day-to-day decisions jointly, and big-ticket purchases as largely theirs. Regardless of this differing perception, it makes sense, in any healthy relationship, to discuss and agree on big-ticket and joint-household purchases…while day-to-day spending may not warrant negotiations. The same is true in any Corporate structure of financial responsibilities and sign-offs, isn’t it? This speaks greatly to who should be targeted for what product/service purchases, singularly or jointly, varying by age/generation, culture, income and lifestyle.
Let’s face it. Since the recession, messages of price value and affordability resonate across genders, cultures and generations. But throughout the Ipsos study, women show greater tendencies toward price and value (despite income), more inclination to spend on “experiences”, and more openness to new brands….which make them less brand loyal (only 29% express brand loyalty). Men are more likely to spend on products, less price focused (except for financial services) and show preference for familiar brands. For women, the security and freedom money brings is 15-20 times more important than the status and respect it affords.
This report also highlights key generational differences:
- Boomer women perceive more differences between men and women. However, in my opinion, this is the generation that taught Gen Y about gender equality and “girls can do anything boys can do.” The study shows that they are more swayed by messages related to “values” and corporate social responsibility, but I believe they are also leading the way with embracing the major cultural shifts for the younger generation…for their sons and daughters.
- Gen X women are solidly in the lifestage of family formation and its associated trade-offs. They seem more financially constrained and price-conscious—so price/value messages resonate best with this generation of women, and considered necessity.
- Gen Y women, aka millenials, feel empowered and equal to men, and are more likely to describe themselves as smart (70% vs. 54% men). But they also feel more stressed and exhausted in an uphill climb in achieving equal results with men. Gen Y is also a global generation of women with perspectives and marketplace preferences that transcend gender and cultural borders, and are inspired by shared experiences of technology, innovation, social media, and new creative brands.
I believe it is the Gen Y women that will finally close the gender inequality in corridors of power in the future. This new generation of women not only feel more ambitious, independent, smart and educated, but they are also less likely than men to be living with their parents—32% versus 40% of men–continuing a long-term gender gap in the share of young adults living at home, according to Pew research.
In my book, I cited the Levi Strauss Millennial study that showed values such as independence (96%) and being able to shape their own future (87%) trump everything… including becoming a mom (68%) and marriage (only 50%). This generation of women who grew up with executive mothers see the hard-working, hard-charging work life as “extreme” and costs too great. This is the most educated cohort of all times with a zest for entrepreneurship, if for nothing else, so they can shape their own future. So clearly they have the greatest influence on cultural evolution for women. (Also read, Evolving Archetypes & Rise of Women)
If you think about it, these underlying “values” and “needs” have major implications in building emotional connections through your branding and communication strategies and messages. More importantly, they help define need-based targeting for brand products and services. For example, price/value is increasingly becoming a greater and greater “need” for women in providing quality life for families, and brands have greater and greater “need” to differentiate amidst the clutter with lower brand loyalties among women consumers. Generational life phase clearly bring forth different set of needs, but the aspirational values for women cross over generationally and demographically.
Targeting women, in general, is an economic imperative and strategic necessity for profitable growth. Targeting women effectively can also serve as a key strategic differentiation for companies. Women not only control majority of buying decisions, but they also demand change and expect it to be meaningful.
If I was consulting for your company, I’d start with asking your strategy and marketing teams these 10 key questions. Here they are…go ahead and ask your team….this is good starting point for your strategic discussions around your Value Propositions and branding/communication strategies:
- Have we re-evaluated our core target to primarily include women ?
- Have we defined which women, which needs and at what relative price?
- Does our Value Proposition(s) identify and align with evolving needs and values?
- How do we differentiate from competition? Is this clearly being communicated?
- Do we know which one of our products/services is “her decision” alone, and which ones are joint with her partner? Are we communicating accordingly?
- Are we enhancing “her experience”? If so, how are we communicating this?
- Does she consider us “affordable” relative to competition? (Note: affordable is not the same as cheap)
- Are we avoiding gender biases and stereotypes in our communication strategies?
- Have we identified the sweet spot of commonalities cross-generationally?
- Are we recognizing and acknowledging The New World Modern Woman?
Can you and your team answer these questions effectively? Are you ready to shift?
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It took several weeks of unusual summer rain in Atlanta and couple of days without phone, internet and cable, before I finished reading some of the books laying on my night stand for months. One of them, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg.
I was among many women who bought this book due to all the media hype, but didn’t read it immediately. Mainly because there were so many articles, blogs, reviews, videos and TV interviews, that I felt I had already read the book. But not true. The promotional sound bites and all the controversy don’t do this book justice. I must admit, reading her ‘acknowledgements’ section, which was as big as any chapter in the book, made me think that if I only had that much help with my book (or any help), I would end up with the same media coverage. Envy aside, kudos to her and her team….I absolutely love her message and her courage to start this important dialogue, and believe her book is a must read for all women and men. And here’s why…..
Sheryl Sandberg is the first woman who finally spoke up about internal barriers as much as external barriers that hold women back from reaching leadership positions. It’s true. Many women (not all) hold themselves back by lacking self-confidence through gender stereotype messages they hear and tend to believe throughout life…. by not raising their hands or sitting at the table…. and by pulling back when they should be leaning in (leaving before leaving). Her TEDtalk speech with this main message reached over 550 million views. In the book she goes further into complex challenges women face and adjustments/differences we can make ourselves: increasing self-confidence and closing the ambition gap, getting our partners to do more at home (Make Your Partner a Real Partner)… not holding ourselves to unattainable standards (The Myth of Doing It All)…. and of course my favorite–avoiding gender stereotypes (OK, she doesn’t have a chapter on this, but she references it allot and I’m personally all about this.)
All that sounds great, right? I nodded my head in agreement most of the entire time and even laughed out loud quite a few times (it’s a witty, funny book). So why all the controversy, and why are so many women so pissed off? Sheryl may think it’s because success and likability are negatively correlated for women, by both women and men. She has a chapter on this with great research no one can negate. But I think there is more….I believe there are two main reasons at the core of the controversy and mixed responses by women about this important message:
First, many women don’t face these internal barriers, depending on cultural and family backgrounds, but face complex external barriers that hold them back. It’s important to read this book without reaching any conclusions, because her argument does not negate external barriers, but pushes everyone to get rid of internal barriers critical to gaining power and success. She poses this as the ultimate chicken-and-egg situation. The chicken: women will tear down the external institutional barriers once we achieve leadership roles and make sure we level the playing field (one can shoot holes all over this with research too.) The egg: we need to eliminate the external institutional barrier to get women into those roles in the first place. Both valid, she encourages women that instead of debating over which comes first, to focus on the chicken and our own internal barriers. It’s a brave move and rarely discussed. Problem is, without reading the book, some think she is attacking the victim. That is not true at all, but perhaps her marketing team have not done a good job balancing her promotional/media messages to include both, as she has done in her book, without alienating those women who truly know how to “lean in” but face institutional barriers. Even those women can really benefit from her message of unconscious gender bias and stereotypes that women face ourselves, and against one another.
Second, and more importantly, I think people in general (men and women) have a harder time relating to those who have not been through similar experiences and hardships. Overcoming severe adversities is a common thread among greatest leaders….one that entices people to listen, relate, learn and follow. And Sheryl has not been through much other than difficult child labor and long work hours. No one should ever hold that against her and the important message she is sending out to The New World Marketplace. But this lack of common wo/man relatability goes far beyond a correlation analysis of success and likability. We all love–regardless of gender, age and culture–hero/eins who rise from ashes like the Phoenix, overcoming adversities and helping others.
With all that said, I give “Lean In” a big thumbs up. But I’d only re-write Time’s headline, “don’t hate her because she is successful,” and say, read this book regardless of how relatively easy success came to the writer, because the message is excellent, prevalent and important for all women and men cross-generationally. Bravo Sheryl.
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We are used to generations of women doing the lioness’ share of child care and housework, even if they have jobs outside the home. Now we are seeing rise of co-parenting and cultural shifts phasing out “husband and wife” and “father and mother” and replacing them with functional roles of “spouse and parent.” Work-family balance is no longer a women’s issue—it is now truly a “family” issue as the word intended.
According to the most recent Census report, the number of stay-at-home fathers in the United States has more than doubled in the past 10 years to 176,000. And according to a report released by the Family and Work Institute last year, men are also experiencing work-family conflict, with 60% saying it was an issue in 2008 (up from 35% in 1977.) That figure remained relatively flat for women (47% in 2008, 41% in 1977.) Today’s Gen Y dads, aka millennials, spend 4+ hours per day with kids under 13, versus only 2 hours in 1977.
A similar WSJ article reported from Census that 32% of fathers with working wives routinely care for their children under age 15, up from 26% in 2002. Pew studies report that dads have tripled the amount of time they spend with their children since 1965. Myriad of research showing increased share of household chores by men…not surprising given the increased presence of women in the workplace, right? But the world outside of homes and inside marketing/branding meeting rooms haven’t caught up yet.
New World fathers are no longer seen as just financial providers or occasional babysitters. They are actively engaged in their children’s daily lives and routine care and view fatherhood as a big part of their personal identities and a pride attribute of who they are as individuals. Factors vary from job market and increasing cost of child care, to rise of women at work, blurring gender roles in the youth culture, and to a degree, today’s men raised amid the women’s movement and perhaps absent fathers… But, no one can argue that the new world of more involved dads as full time partners in parenting has arrived and it’s here to stay.
What’s even more interesting is what Pew Research calls “breadwinner moms.” A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. The share was just 11% in 1960. One of my continuous sound bites about The New World Marketplace is that 1/3 of Gen Y were into unwed mothers.
These “breadwinner moms” are made up of two very different groups:
1) 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and are slightly older, disproportionally white and college educated…grown from 4% in 1960 to 15% in 2011.
2) 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers, who are younger, more likely to be black or Hispanic, less likely to have a college degree, grown from 7% to 25% during the same period. And they are more likely to be never married than divorced/separated.
No surprises here, education has always had direct correlation to income, and unfortunately to date, correlation to race/ethnicity (but this is changing.) Interestingly, both groups of breadwinner moms have grown in size in the past as seen by increasing work population of women. What may be surprising to most is that the total family income is higher when the mother, not the father, is the primary breadwinner. And married mothers are increasingly better educated than their husbands. This is a trend most likely to escalate as we see for every 2 men graduating from college, 3 women are and with better GPAs.
What do all these cultural shifts mean to you and your businesses?
It’s simple. Think about it. Should diaper bags and child care materials all have pink bows and flowers on them? Diaper Dude now sells dozens of styles of bags designed to appeal to men…grey, black, camouflage prints, even bags with baseball team logos. Are you in the restaurant business? Have you thought about changing tables in your men’s restrooms? Are you in technology business? Think of the AT&T ad showing a dad changing diapers while talking sports on his smartphone with his friend.
The new generations of parents use technology to feel connected and involved with their children. It’s no longer just about reading the popular books on parenting, but also weekly customized e-mails from BabyCenter, apps like Contraction Timer, iPads at daycares logging activity throughout the day, watching your kids on your smartphones from your office. Even doggie day cares allow that. But why aren’t we seeing enough of these new world life scenarios in advertising campaigns for technology brands, specially using dads? Working moms, hands-on dads and more involved young fathers are the new normal. Think about that next time you are developing an ad campaign for a household product.
This type of cultural trend has significant impact on traditional paradigms and how marketers should view targeting families for products and services.
Yes… Women control 85% of consumer buying decisions. Moms will remain a key target market for many business categories. But what do you think appeals to women and moms? Certainly not the old gender stereotypes.
Here are 3 simple tips to get you started:
1. Don’t speak to mom at the exclusion of dad, unless you are targeting single mothers only …he is a trusted parenting partner.
2. Avoid all gender stereotypes in your branding messages and strategies. Market to shared values and needs, not gender. Market to the inside of your customers, not outside.
2. Don’t project your own traditional cultural paradigm in your branding strategies. You are not your customers. And it is The New World Marketplace, afterall.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (by Tate Publishing)
ATLANTA, GA. – It’s The New World Marketplace afterall, and women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future. A rapid cultural shift has occurred over the last decade, but author and thought leader Farnaz Wallace believes it’s not being addressed by businesses and leaders.
“With all the great empowerment initiatives for women today, we are still looking at massive gender inequality in corridors of power,” she said. “Many great women thought leaders point to re-evaluating business policies to eliminate obstacles that force talented women to choose between family and career, and others point to women’s ambition calling us all to man up–but I believe there are 4 missing links from this important dialogue.”
Wallace breaks these down into four essentials for women to succeed in The New World Marketplace Leadership: Inner-authenticity, Being the woman leader other women want to work for, Re-defining Power, and Avoiding all gender stereotypes.
“I’ve always believed once you gain trust and respect, love always follows,” she said. “But how can women gain trust and respect if they’re trying to be someone they are not?” Wallace believes it’s far more important to find the richest, fullest expression of one’s authentic self, and spend majority of time in strength and passion and generate results, versus trying to fit into a perceived cultural norm.
“Research shows that women have a tougher time working for women,” she said. “To be a successful leader, people of all ages, cultures, race and gender must want to follow and work for you, specially other women. Men and women largely agree on life goals. It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women ourselves.”
“That’s even more of an important toptic than gender inequality because the old business culture of command and control doesn’t work for men or women,” she said. Wallace believes it is time to redefine power as less need to limit or control others, and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership–a blend of hard and soft powers, she calls it “smart” powers. “Women don’t need to man up to be successful, they need to possess smart powers,” she said.
“Women are different than other women, just as men are different than other men, why the continuous focus on gender stereotyping?” she asks. “I believe if we want to achieve gender equality, we must first stop gender stereotyping for it serves no purpose other than protecting traditional orthodoxies that have held women back for generations.”
Wallace is a thought leader, speaker, and strategic consultant focused on helping companies capitalize on cultural macro trends in today’s fast-changing marketplace. She is the published author of the book, The New World Marketplace, and presently resides in Atlanta.
With all the great empowerment initiatives for women today, we are still looking at massive gender inequality in corridors of power. Many great women thought leaders point to re-evaluating business policies as it relates to the flexible work schedule and eliminating obstacles that force brilliant women to choose between family and career. Others point to women’s ambition calling us all to man up. While I think there is truth in both, I think there are 4 missing links from this important dialogue.
In my keynote speech at Possible Woman conference two weeks ago, I addressed what it takes to be a successful woman leader in The New World Marketplace. Here’s a 5-min video highlight of this keynote address followed by my written summary of the 4 tips I shared:
1. Be authentic, focus on your own unique differentiation, gain trust and respect
I wasn’t just a woman working hard to advance my career in Corporate America, I was an Iranian-American woman….so you can just imagine the brutal stereotypes I had to face and overcome. I wasn’t just an Iranian-American woman, but I had multi-colored hair and tattoos. A far cry from a traditional image of a successful businessman. But at the end of the day, results speak for themselves. Under my CMO leadership, we drove 5 years of consecutive same-store-sales growth. So, I built trust and respect instead of focusing on changing myself to fit into a cultural norm…and I’ve always believed once you gain trust and respect, love follows. Trust and respect are two most important shared values in relationships in The New World Marketplace. But how can you possibly gain trust and respect of your collegues, employees, bosses, even your customers, when you’re trying to be someone you’re not?
It’s far more important to always find the richest, fullest expression of your authentic self, and spend majority of your time in your strengths and passion, versus trying to fit into an exclusive image of the professional businessman, which is no longer the success archetype in The New World Marketplace. Because being good at what you do has nothing to do with how others see you…but it has everything to do with how you see and feel about yourself.
I not only believe the inner authenticity translates in to your own power and success, but I believe authenticity in branding strategies also translates in to your company success. Strategy is not about being the best, it’s about being different and unique. Your own branding strategy has to be the same….about your own uniqueness and differentiation. Be authentic, focus on your own unique differentiation, gain trust and respect and let the results speak for themselves.
2. Be the woman leader other women want to work for
Beyond my non-traditional image and my business and financial performance, it was my style of leadership that differentiated me. I was determined to become the woman leader other women wanted to work for. As an emerging leader, I was always promoted every 2-3 years by working hard and driving results. And I’ve had just as many female bosses as I’ve had male bosses….yet the women bosses weren’t the ones promoting me. I always questioned whether it was a scarcity mentality that there is just not enough abundance to go around for all of us…or a flaw in leadership training for women. I decided then that I wanted to be a woman leader other women wanted to work for and that I’d provide an environment for women to thrive and succeed.
As I was doing research for my book, I came across this data from Time Magazine: More than 2/3 of women still think men resent powerful women…yet 45% of women say female bosses are harder to work for, versus only 29% of men. This is a major issue not often addressed.
Believe it or not, men and women of all races and ages largely agree on life goals. It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women ourselves. That’s even more of an important topic than gender inequality, because one of my biggest fear is reaching gender equality but maintaining the same business culture of domination, command and control. Because that model is not working, and simply switching gender without redefining power and success will not address the core issue.
3. Redefine Power as a blend of hard and soft powers – SMART powers
I believe it’s time to redefine power as less need to limit or control others and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership. In fact, the need to control and dominate, in reality, is a feeling of powerlessness. That means leaving behind the hard, conquest and domination-oriented values. I don’t believe you need to man up to be a successful woman leader.
Feminine values or soft powers are loaded with polarizing reactions, but they are meant to refer to values associated with creation, life-generating, nurturing powers, caring, relating…human and relationship values that have become a business imperative and taught in almost all leadership materials…versus taking, conquest and domination.
It’s time to use feminine and masculine powers as qualities and values in all women and men, instead of gender stereotyping. Let’s face it…there are many women who lead with masculine hard powers, and there are many men who lead with relating, nurturing, caring & soft powers. It has nothing to do with gender.
I believe we all need both…. and it’s a matter of knowing when to use which… Blend of hard powers and soft powers….let’s just call it “SMART POWERS.” It’s time for women leaders to re-evaluate how they view power to succeed and use SMART powers.
4. Stop gender stereotyping, avoid focus on gender differences
Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. Ask yourself why do we persist to focus on gender differences. Men are logical. Women are emotional. If that’s true, and marketing is designed to get an “emotional” response and attachment from customers, why do we bother market to men at all? Men are different from other men. Women are different than other women. Why the continuous focus on how men and women are different? Haven’t we confused our next generations of leaders enough?
I, for one, have defied all gender stereotypes, but that doesn’t mean I forgot how to be a caring, nurturing woman as a leader. I used my masculine powers to gain competitive market share and drive financial results, but I led my team with feminine powers of caring, relating and partnership.
The focus on gender inequality must be different than our continuous focus on gender differences. In fact, I believe if we want to achieve gender equality, we must first stop gender stereotyping for it serves no purpose other than protecting traditional orthodoxies that have held women back for generations.
In The New World Marketplace, it’s neither the man’s world nor a woman’s nation. It’s a dynamic, cooperative shared reality that is under constant evaluation. And the template of success and happiness is very unique and personal to each individual, and is gender neutral and color blind. If you lead with authenticity, purpose and passion, power and success will follow.
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Farnaz Wallace delivers a thought-provoking, motivational keynote about The New World Marketplace at 2012 Diversity Woman Business Leadership Conference in Washington DC on December 17, 2012. Here’s a short 3-minute clip of this speech:
The dynamic Farnaz Wallace, author of The New World Marketplace and CEO/Founder of Farnaz Global LLC, will be the opening keynote speaker at the Possible Woman Conference Wednesday April 24 at Atlanta Marriott Marquis. In its 17th year, Possible Woman is an inspiring conference that connects attendees with the growth possibilities in every woman.
Wallace joins international dance star Judith Jamison, choreographer and artistic director emerita of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who will be the luncheon keynote speaker.
As a former Chief Marketing Officer with Church’s Chicken who drove five years of consecutive sales growth outpacing the category, Wallace coined the phrase The New World Marketplace to define how women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future. She is a provocative thinker and an insightful strategist who helps leaders and companies capitalize on cultural macro trends and define their brand’s value proposition and sustainable revenue models in today’s fast-changing marketplace.
Of Iranian background, Wallace immigrated with her family to Louisiana at the age 15. She uses the lessons learned by overcoming issues of ethnicity, gender, class, caste, religious, political, economic and lifestyle experiences to shape her vision and keep it alive. She believes in the spirit’s deep desire for freedom, self-determination and self-expressions to maintain an inner authenticity. She leads others to find authenticity within themselves, their companies and customers.
“Her whole life has been a Possible Woman experience!” said Linda Wind, CEO of Wind Enterprises®, organizer of the annual regional leadership conference. “Her ideas are fascinating and will help makePOWER. PURPOSE. PASSION. Possible Woman 2013 the most dynamic Possible Woman event yet!”