What do the following comments about women leaders have in common?
“The right look is the corporate appearance, assimilating this accords familiarity and respect. Be attractive. As you grow older, your hair should be cut shorter, as it conveys professionalism. Dress for the job you want, not what you have.
Avoid emotions, remain calm while being yelled at, and be respectfully feminine in your response.
Sacrifice your personal time; you have to dedicate your time 24/7. It is only those who work excessive hours that achieve leadership.
Claim your ideas, make statements rather than ask questions to open dialogue, and avoid being seen as pushy or aggressive.
Ensure good relationships with men, so that they are comfortable in our presence, and ‘avoid the hen house. Women shouldn’t should be seen in each others’ company, and definitely do not congregate. It makes men nervous.
Look for opportunities to network with senior men, and work out your strategy to get leverage. Show that you want the job, go for drinks or a round of golf, get comfortable being on your own with 20 men in a meeting.”
If you guessed that they’re antiquated, stale, sexist rules for being a Stepford Leader, you get both a gold star and a Golden Perfect Robot Award. Those Non-Stepford researchers Athena Vongalis-Macrow and Andrea Gallant have again given us food for thought. In their latest post for the Harvard Business Review, “Stepford Women in the Workplace”, they posit, “Step-forward leadership is about moving away from the familiar, old-fashioned advice. It is about stepping forward and actively finding new ways to talk with each other, and moving that talk into action that builds successful professional identities more suitable for the twenty-first-century woman.”
What is step-forward leadership? Thought you’d never ask, “We argue for the new criteria that promotes not Stepford but step-forward leadership for women. We need to identify and promote the true leadership qualities that women can bring to the workplace. This is currently being overshadowed by the Stepford ‘rules”, giving people false expectations of what women in the workplace should be. We need to write less about what we expect women to do or wear, and more about individual, interpersonal leadership approaches that work. Step-forward leaders have multiple attributes that defy gender stereotyping. When examining, reporting, or discussing successful women, the emphasis needs to shift away from identifying them only from a gendered perspective and look more at the positive qualities they bring to the workplace.”
They then invite us to join the dialogue by asking, “What else can women do to promote the positive leadership attributes — and move from Stepford leadership to step-forward leadership?”
Harvard Business Review has five posts by Vongalis-Macrow and Gallant including the above mentioned article and “What Women Want In Their Leaders”.