Women Helping Women

Lisa P. Gaynier | Project Heard | Woman of Power

By: Lisa P. Gaynier

Women Helping Women | Woman of Power | Project Heard

In a succession of careers, as a business owner, as a consultant to Fortune 100 companies, and in my current role as the director of a Master’s program in culturally competent leadership, the theme of women’s workplace issues, women in leadership and women in power has been a potent one. Sorting out what works and what’s real in the cacophony of voices is often difficult and is one reason why I stepped into an academic role after a career spent mostly in business.

One thing on which the academic research is clear: society’s notions of leadership tend to be male-centric and women adhere to these notions too. While many of us notice the double-standard used in characterizing women leaders, we may also be perpetuating those double standards ourselves in our judgments of women candidates for jobs, for promotions, etc. in our respective organizations.

Another thing that I noticed is that women have organized around or within the silos of their organizations. Again, mirroring the structural norms of their organizations, which have also historically been creations of men.

What do I mean by that: Nurses with nurses, engineers with other engineers, all within their specialty areas and levels—especially levels within their organizations. This is understandable – we cluster with those with whom we think we have the most in common and with whom we are in closest proximity.

Yet, the issues that women face, regardless of organizational rank or level, are generally the same: the glass ceiling, flexible hours, face time, early a.m. meetings, or staying late at night… “work-life balance” in all its permutations. We may recognize these commonalities but are we acting across them? Are we reaching out to our women colleagues in these different echelons to nudge our organizations toward addressing these so-called “women’s issues” or are we content to fight for equity only in our organizational levels while letting the inequitable status quo remain for women in lower levels of our organizations?

At the same time we neglect race, class and professional differences. Women have many identity intersections. How does race and class further divide us at a time when we might need to recognize our common experiences? Which is a stronger affiliation --- your race or your gender? This might seem like an unfair question, yet I have worked with white women engineers who have failed to be supportive of their black female colleagues: race has trumped gender. I have also worked with women professionals who have been harsher judges of their female colleagues in promotion decisions than their male counterparts.

Madeline Albright’s comment, ‘there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other’ did not sit well with younger women, revealing a generational divide among women professionals. This divide was well on its way in the mid-80s when my professional women friends bemoaned their younger colleagues’ lack of appreciation for the gains their teachers’ union had won for them. The young women of the 1980s had not been alive to experience life prior to union protection. This trend has continued.
We push for reforms to make the world a better place and within a generation, we forget how and why those reforms were necessary.

Continued progress of women in the workplace is going to require a new round of coming together to address the unconscious bias that permeates our current workplaces. As women, we may be objects of that bias AND we are probably also perpetuators. The cornerstone of emotionally intelligent leadership is the willingness to deeply examine oneself. Change comes from within and works outward. We need to examine how we as individuals contribute to perpetuating the very biases we bemoan, especially when other people are the recipients of those biases. Check out Harvard’s Implicit Association website to check your unconscious biases!

Women’s voices and women’s power will be stronger in our organizations and in society if we examine and own our own blind spots; then seek common ground across the divides I mentioned above. For instance, women doctors in large hospital systems could be partnering with the large numbers of women nurses, aids, and orderlies, to ensure that their employer is addressing equal pay for equal work, flextime, and all the other issues that are important to women employees up and down the organizational hierarchy.

Owning our own biases around these issues, allows us to see opportunities to progress forward as a society. We are more likely to gain structural systemic progress if we address bias at the system level. Sheryl Sandberg exhorted women to “lean in.” I would argue that we need to be “all in” and “all inclusive” when it comes to fighting for equity for women.

Gaynier directs the Cleveland State University’s Master’s program in culturally competent leadership.
She can be reached at l.gaynier@csuohio.edu or 216.523.7266. www.csuohio.edu/dmp. 
Her leadership consulting website is www.creativechange.biz 216.470.3366.
Find me on Linkedin & Twitter: @lpgaynier

/ Print
Posted by Lisa P. Gaynier in General


3 Comment(s)
Friday, Oct 7th
Audrey Wiggins

Great insights Lisa. I agree, we must be "all-in". I have witnessed the issues or equity for women only at higher levels, as if that was a great thing to do. Putting our EQ to practice is a great start to uncover our unconscious biases.

Wednesday, Oct 26th
Lisa Gaynier

Thanks Audrey! We need to be all-in around our biases -- examining them. And as professional women we need to attend to some kind of "balance" -- more like trade-offs to juggle all that we juggle.

Friday, Oct 28th

Witnessed a lot of unwillingness to support our women cohorts both in the workplace and middle school/high school. Worked in the health care field where you would expect compassion, generosity and caring. Where does all the jealousy, pettiness and make you look bad so I look good mentality come from? Are we as a society somehow instilling these traits in our daughters unknowingly. Or are we just more aware when it comes from a sister because we think they SHOULD BE our ally? My successful fem

Comment* (250 characters max)
0 Pending Comments
 Keep me updated of follow-up comments!
Most Recent

By Carrie Sechel
January 30, 2018 Category: Leadership

Imagine the scene: you have a coffee meeting on your calendar with a few people you havent seen in a while. Your morning got off to a crazy start. You rush to the meeting with your mind reeling about your huge to-do list and packed day ahead. You get to the coffee shop almost on time, feeling both relieved and panicked. As you sit down, you hear some ask how are you?, and the first thing that comes out of your mouth is busy. Every day you have countless conversations. These conversations are HUGE opportunities to move forward, to share the best of yourself with the world, and to open yourself to new and unexpected opportunities. Make sure you wow others with your contributions, points of view, solutions, or well worded challenges that the other person may be able to help you with! Watch the video:https://youtu.be/DxLaQKDax8c Im busy Theres a lot going on. I get it! But do you want to be just another person saying Im busy? When someone says Im busy to you, whats your reaction? Neutral

By Raquel Eatmon
January 21, 2018 Category: Raquel

The tug-of-war in our culture is exhausting. People are forcing us to take sides. Every day theres a developing story or breaking news that pulls on our emotions. There is so much to process and some of it is too consuming and flat out ridiculous but these are the times were in. Stewing in uncertain or unstable times isnta pass to slow down. Just the opposite is true, this is the perfect time to crank things up and keep rolling towards getting stronger and achieving greatness. Now is the time to call on your higher self and bring goodness into your life and into the world. Be a self-starter and choose to focus on the things that bring fulfillment and joyfulness to yourself and others. Here are four ways to start. Whittling Down What You Really Want Just scratching the surface doesnt do much, especially if youre seeking answers to some of lifes big questions. Dusting off the first layer doesnt move the needle. To find what were seeking, weve got to peel back layer after layer and be

By Roxanne Kaufman Elliot
September 07, 2017 Category: Leadership

Long ago in an ancient time, humankind was so abusive of the keys to happiness and success that the great elders and wise women of the time decided to take the keys away and hide them where no one could ever find them again. But, where? The Leader of the Wise Women decided to call a meeting of the Council of Elders to discuss the hiding place. When they were all together she put the question to the group and asked for ideas and suggestions. One of the more senior elders raised her hand and said, Oh, Wise Leader, we should take the keys of happiness and success and bury them in the deepest, darkest depths of the Earth. No one would think to look there and if they did, it would be much too difficult to dig down and find them. The Wise Leader thought about this for a moment and then said, Thank you, but no, I dont think they would remain hidden there. Humankind is very resourceful and will find a way to uncover them. Another of the council members raised her hand and said, I know! Lets

Project Heard: In Association with

Connect With Us

© , ProjectHEARD Powered by Virteom