Discrimination | Unconscious Bias | Gender-pay Inequality | Role Congruity Bias
“There is no greater threat to the critics, cynics, and fear-mongers than a woman who is willing to fall because she has learned how to rise” Brene Brown
When a woman wants to progress in her career, her path is riddled with obstacles that a man simply will not face.
In so many instances in history, we see the typical embodiment of a “leader” as someone who portrays ‘agentic’ traits… Someone who focuses on “self-affirmation, individualised direction, self protection and self-assertion” (1).. To translate – someone competitive, controlling, direct, secretive, pragmatic… I suppose you could relate this type of person to your typical corporate ‘Shark’.
Preference for these agentic traits in leadership roles is theoretically looked at as a ‘masculine trait’ and it’s a societal unconscious bias that it should therefore be a ‘man’ – and if it was to be a woman, that she would be looked at as ‘bossy’ or ‘rude’.. An unfair social bias..
Who performs well when they’re scared of their boss?
Who can feel calm, supported and focused if they get punished for making mistakes?
Who can be curious if every time we ask a question it’s looked at as intrusive or going above your pay grade?
Personal note: I get super frustrated that people think you’re a ‘schemer’ or you ‘trap people’ or ‘milk money’ out of people just because you have a strong interest in business.
Being in the business of being in business is about in service of others and working together towards a common cause.. Interestingly, as we make further inroads into understanding psychology in the workplace, we are discovering… that these agentic traits, ARE NOT conducive to producing results in the workplace long term albeit provide a good short term win or two.
It is widely published in the literature now, that having a workplace focused on developing emotional intelligence, building strong relationships and promoting workplace happiness is linked to job satisfaction, tenure, performance and overall increasing revenue production.
And how do you do that???
By being more ‘communal’. The opposite of ‘agentic’
Rightly or wrongly, being ‘communal’ is looked at as being more ‘feminine’ and associated with being a woman.. This doesn’t mean a man can’t have ‘feminine’ traits, but society unconsciously bias’ otherwise..
So who better to lead than more women.. We need more “She-E-Os”
Don’t confuse this with women screaming their message from the rooftops
Don’t confuse this with women being bossy, rude or bitchy
Don’t confuse this with women scheming and manipulating others
Because these are agentic traits – and it’s why there is inequality in the FIRST PLACE.
The LAST THING WE NEED is more women, doing what men have done.
What we need, is a shift in focus from these agentic traits being favourable to being more communicable and actually CARING about one another.
This is a ‘communal’ approach and it’s where we need to focus if we are going to create positive organisational behaviour and has been documented to be associated with organisational performance and is characterised through building a sense of hope, optimism and resilience.
Empathy, nurture, inclusivity, togetherness, comfort, flexibility, health focused, collaboration, cooperation and care…
Women in leadership, for the win!
Connect with our author – Dr Nick Papastamatis at Balance Health Performance and follow him on Instagram @dr.nickpapas
Additional References and Reading:
O’Boyle Jr E, H,. Humphrey R, H,. Pollack, J, M,. Hawver, T, H,. Story P, A. 2010 “The relation between emotional intelligence and job performance: A meta-analysis” Journal of organisational behaviour 32, pp788-818 link
Miao, C., Humphrey R, H., Qian S. 2017 “A meta-analysis of emotional intelligence and work attitudes” Journal of occupational and organisational psychology 90, pp177-202 link
Boyatzis, R. 2011 “Managerial and Leadership competencies: a behavioural approach to emotional, social and cognitive intelligence” Vision 15(2) pp91-100 link
Abele, Andrea E The Dynamics of Masculine-Agentic and Feminine-Communal Traits: Findings From a Prospective Study United States: American Psychological Association
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003-10, Vol.85 (4), p.768-776 link
Hirokawa, Kumi ; Taniguchi, Toshiyo ; Fujii, Yasuhito Job Stress and Agentic–Communal Personality Traits Related to Serum Cortisol Levels of Male Workers in a Japanese Medium-Sized Company: A Cross-Sectional Study Boston: Springer US International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2015-02, Vol.22 (1), p.11-17 link