Big Ideas

Rethinking the Leadership Gender Agenda

Rethinking the Leadership Gender Agenda

Presented at the 2016 Society for Consulting Psychology Midwinter Conference, Orlando, FL

Robert B. Kaiser, Kaiser Leadership Solutions
Wanda T. WallaceLeadership Forum Inc.

Download Rob and Wanda’s slides

After over 30 years of trying to break the glass ceiling, some progress has been made to help competent women advance into senior leadership but few concerned with this effort are satisfied with the extent of that progress. This presentation suggested some new directions based on studying bias and real differences in the leadership of women and men in a modern corporate context and over 20 years of helping organizations to create the conditions needed to help women reach the top.

First, Rob presented data from gender audits conducted for six different companies. In these audits, he has studied the extent of gender bias and real gender differences in leadership behavior using matched samples of similarly aged, experienced, and tenured women and men leaders from six companies in five different industries and based on three different continents. The results are surprising and indicated that most managers in contemporary corporations are on-board with the need to help more women reach the top—even if they may not know how.  The results also suggest a silent conspiracy where women get trapped into roles involving the tactical management of execution, which prevent them from developing the strategic organizational leadership skills sought after for top jobs.

Next, Wanda debunked some popular mythology around the gender agenda in discussing a new approach–one more consistent with the data Rob presented and based on her extensive experience coaching women leaders and advising global corporations. These strategies, tactics, and techniques reframe how we think about diversity and inclusion and both empower women to better position themselves for senior leadership and help organizations to manage female talent more effectively.

Taken together, Rob and Wanda’s research and years of experience suggest that an overlooked reason why more women aren’t advancing into senior leadership may be that they aren’t getting the career opportunities and broadening experiences needed to develop strategic organizational leadership skills. Many women are caught in a new double-bind where they are getting rewarded for being a tactical doer at the expense of becoming a strategic thinker.

See more of Rob and Wanda’s research on women in leadership:

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