As we are entrenched in one of the largest recessions of United States history and are not certain when things will improve, most people are experiencing fear, anger and depression. However, in a time like the present, when we have hit rock bottom, it can also be an ideal time to implement change and reformation.
The old paradigm of power and leadership has been proven ineffective. Now more than ever people are looking for new ways to do things and are open to explore alternatives. In times of prosperity and success, the band of opportunity to innovate and reform is narrow. Few are willing to upset the status quo because the psychology underlying this is “It ain’t broke so why fix it?”-there is too much to lose if change does not work.
But now is an opportune time for women. An article published recently cited that the recession may result in women becoming the majority of the work force as companies become leaner. How will this majority status shape our behavior as women in the business world? Will we do things differently than before or succumb to similar roles previously played out?
The fact is (even though we may not want to admit it) women can collude with stereotypes established by our male dominated culture. We have been socialized to accept certain givens and can lose objectivity about the stereotypes that still exist in corporate America. Decades of ground breaking research by sociologists and psychologists have illustrated that developmental theories, education and health care have all been shaped by the male perspective and designed to fit that mold. Strides have been made in some contexts but other systems remain archaic. Now is the time for women to become pioneers and renegades to reform our culture!
We all know too well there is a narrow band for women to exercise power. If women act too assertively they get labeled “aggressive” “bitchy” “self serving.” Yet if women do not act assertive enough they are labeled “weak” “soft” or “incapable of making tough decisions”. It is a juggling act for women to find just the right recipe of behavior to be able to be successful at work. But what do we do to uphold the stereotype? Do we possess stereotypes that we use as a lens to view other women?
Ask yourself? What stereotypes do exist in your organization? How do you manage and navigate around them? What stereotypes do you have of other women?
A lawyer in one of New York City’s top law firms revealed that in the early stages of her career, she found herself expecting much more from women professionals than she did from men. In fact, she would naturally trust men but women had to prove themselves to her. Now ten years later, she admits that her image of herself interfered. She was feeling a lot of self doubt and insecurity in her own capability so as a result felt other women were not as capable. She realizes her mistakes and has learned that women professionals are just as capable as or even more so than male peers.