Is there enough fairness and respect in the workplace for women executives? I asked this question to myself many times in the past several weeks.
In the last couple of months, most of the coaching cases and prospective clients that I was dealing with involved facing issues related to the workplace.
In one case the boss had changed and the new boss did not have much respect for the fairer sex. He wanted her to resign. He cited reasons of aggressive behavior and lack of diplomacy by her while dealing with the onsite team.
In another case, my coachee was perceived to be passive-aggressive in her behavior towards the team. In both the cases, the HR team had to step in to offer coaching intervention for behavioral change.
As I progressed further in understanding my clients, many things unfolded. Some of the behaviors from my coachee’s colleagues, peers, and bosses towards her were not new to me. During my career spanning three decades, I had encountered such folks myself and knew how to deal with them.
What made me sad though, was with so much of hype about diversity and inclusion (D&I), the needle has not moved for many organizations.
Inclusive behavior just another jargon
This left me to wonder if D&I initiatives are just lip services. Is inclusive behavior another jargon or is this something which organizations follow?
It is disheartening to hear some of the experiences that some of my coachees shared with me. The approach to D&I needs to change; D&I has become more of a rote phase in the industry.
Leveling false charges to stop or stymie the growth of female executives. Assertiveness getting perceived as aggressiveness. Questioning the ambitions of women asking for prime positions. All these and more added to the stress of my clients.
I like and agree with what the Chief Diversity Officer at eBay, Damien Hooper-Campbell has to say on humanizing Diversity & Inclusion.
“Folks, diversity alone isn’t enough. If diversity is getting invited to the dance party, inclusion is being asked to dance when you’re at the party.”
While quoting the above, Hooper-Campbell also talks about getting rid of all the noise that focuses on the diversity hiring and statistics. We all know that diverse workforce helps with profits and business. But is there anyone focusing on what actually happens in the workplace?
What actually happens in the workplace
From what I have heard and seen in the last couple of months while coaching my clients, it seems nobody cares what actually happens in the workplace.
All that matters to the organization is tracking the gender ratio, conducting D&I trainings, or changing a few policies to suit female employees.
In one of the organizations, my coachee, a senior executive, was described as bossy, aggressive, and abrasive by her peers and colleagues.
I wonder if men who shout in meetings and do anything to have the last word in the debate are also perceived and labeled as abrasive, bossy or aggressive. Or are they held in high esteem because they know how to prove their point?
Impact of Company culture in nurturing women employees
D&I initiatives and programs are important to create awareness. But organization culture plays a significant role in nurturing women employees.
Attitude and mindset of senior leaders and negative oafish comments belittling the women executives create environments that put off women managers from performing at work.
One of my coachees narrated an incident wherein her boss, a tenured professional in the industry, asked her to resign.He advised her to spend time with her children. He wanted to create an open position to promote one of her male colleagues into her position. Confronted with such bias, she felt victimized and harassed.
Besides D&I initiatives, companies should create an environment which is fair to both men & women. Unfortunately, some company cultures have a long way to go to fulfill such basic needs for fostering female talent.