Let’s not blame the men, and equally, let’s not try to fix the women either!
I have written two courses (tried and tested) for women, RenewYou and Speak Up. The intention of both is to boost the confidence of women in order that they might challenge the status quo and, crucially, take advantage of opportunities which many employers now make available. They are not about trying to fix the women to behave more like the men. Nor are they about whipping up a storm of anger and aggression about the men.
Why then, I’m occasionally asked, aren’t they mixed courses? Well, in an ideal world they would be, (in an ideal world they wouldn’t be required anyway). I have tried RenewYou as a mixed course. It worked for the men, very well. They enjoyed the time spent in the company of women who were very helpful at engaging with them and allowing them to access deeper thoughts.
It didn’t work particularly well for most of the women. Women need a safe space to talk about the issues which affect them. While men found the presence of women helped them do this, women found the presence of men curtailed their involvement and willingness to share. It also highlighted a particular difference in communication styles of men and women. Women like to air their problems and thoughts, and be heard. We often work out what we’re thinking by talking out loud. Men are happy to listen but then have a tendency to propose solutions, give answers.
As the issue the course addresses is confidence for women, with time to reflect and make plans, it really had to be women only.
Businesses and Gender Equality
When a company is in the early stages of exploring gender equality, women’s groups often appear. I’ve shared my views on women’s groups before which you can see here. My main concern is that by having a woman’s group it becomes a woman’s problem and not an initiative from the company to create a better working environment to retain more females as they progress through the organisation. It’s a bit of a catch 22 because the groups can be so valuable in helping women identify what it is they need and want.
However, women’s groups in an organisation can do two undesirable things: they can alienate and possibly antagonise the men, and they can allow a business which is not serious about gender equality to ‘tick the box’ and do precious little else.
I’ve spoken with some great businesses recently who are really working hard at getting a gender balanced workforce, at making sure they don’t lose out on the talents of women. They include, Admiral, Sky, and ITV to name just a few. Notably they don’t have women’s groups but have made the issue part of a cultural change with the underlying principles core to everything they do. That is the way forward.
RenewYou is my one day personal development course licensed to 75+ excellent trainers across the globe. Click here to find out more.
Posted on October 30th, 2015 by Jane