Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Women and Our Families vs the Old Male Business Model

We've been hearing a lot about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to discontinue the company's 'work-at-home' policy, and Facebook Exec Sheryl Sandberg's new book 'Lean In' lately. 

While I can see the reasons for the change to the work-at-home policy, I can also see the problems this is going to cause for working parents who are going to be greatly impacted by this change.

Yahoo's in serious trouble, and despite the problems the change will cause, the company's survival has to take precedence over the inconvenience to the employees. 

I believe it was a business decision and not a personal one. I believe it took a great deal of courage and wisdom to make this decision. Being a mother herself, I believe she knew what the cost would be to some of the employees. I also believe she chose the lesser of two very hard choices: 
1. Cancel the work-at-home policy, or
2. Lay-off employees, or worst case…let the company fail.

Sometimes the hard choices are the least popular. However, as business owners, I think we’d all make the same decision.

Sheryl Sandberg's new book (which I haven't read), raises some questions about a woman's role in the business world and how we relate to it. 

In some ways it says we're not being assertive enough. But, I don't know if she's making allowances for the fact that women are still relatively new to the 'corporate management' world; and that we behave differently in business. 

And, that there’s still a lot of resistance to women taking senior management positions. We don’t always have the same freedoms to make the same choices as men do because despite our changing society, women are still the primary care-givers for our families; the  young ones and the old ones, too. 

Until the responsibilities become more ‘balanced’, we will still be required to choose family over career, most of the time.

As stated, her model seems to imply that we should 'act/speak like men', in order to get ahead. That concept inspires at least 2 schools of thought:
1. That we should continue to try to mirror the male business model. I'm not necessarily in favor of this idea because it's doesn't allow us to be our authentic selves as women. We’ve been trying to change it, so becoming more like it, seems like taking steps backward.
2. That unless we do act/talk like men, that we aren't strong or good enough to compete with our male counter-parts. This belief means that we may never shatter the glass ceiling unless we change who we are. That doesn’t resonate with me either.

The male model didn’t really work well for anyone except the alpha males to start with. Most of the men who become corporate leaders are very often considered cold, predatory ‘sharks and barracudas’ of business who’d rather destroy their competition, than use the Universal Laws to create their own abundance and success. 

I question whether that’s the model we want to continue using in the world we’re creating now. Is that the only way we can have success and be great leaders?

While there are some merits to what she says, I think there’s a better approach. First, I think there’s a mis-communication, a disconnect in the way women express themselves. We tend to use words that dis-empower us. We hold ourselves back because we fear being called ‘bitchy’. 

On the other hand, men express themselves from a place of power, without concern as to how they’ll be perceived. Their expectation is that they’ll be perceived as strong, decisive and certain, and they are. I believe we can do that too, but in a way that’s comfortable for us. 

So perhaps the real issue is for women to learn to use different ‘words’ and behaviors so we express ourselves in ways that empower us, but still allow us to be who we are…strong, powerful, capable women…with hearts!

The question is, where and how do we start in learning to speak our decisive truth…with confidence and power?  

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