Women on the Board… Who is fooling whom?

Being authentic in the workplace is one of the values which many of us hold dear and yet time and time again we experience people who for one reason or another feel that they have to behave differently in a situation because its expected, to be part of the in crowd, because they are not confident to do something different or …

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is how women behave differently when they are on an ascending career path and that’s often intensified when they reach the senior management team and or board level. I’m sure you’ve met some people like that too.

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Perhaps there has been some generational influence in so much as the women have felt that to work with, influence and lead baby boomers then acting, talking and behaving like a man i.e. them would be more successful than acting, talking and behaving as themselves?

Recent studies have shown that generation Y responds far more to someone with feminine energy and characteristics. So what will these women do – change tactics completely when working with generation y?

Bridget McIntyre, founder of Dream On says very clearly ‘there’s no point in pretending to be something you are not’; its not authentic, it doesn’t fool everybody and it becomes an act and persona that can at times mean we lose who we really are.

And this I know from personal experience partly from working in industries such as construction where let’s say the attitude to women managers was variable. Sometimes even trying to be ‘one of the boys’ in my management style, But even more so when I was reporting directly to, and working with, women who acted, talked and behaved like men. I found myself wearing another persona and that didn’t sit well with me but it took a while for me to see it as it was and accept that I was pretending to be something I wasn’t.

So now I have created my own’ brand ‘, which is authentic to me and my values and my business.

McIntyre teaches the women she works with on boards to trust their instinct and that they will know what and when to say something. And that it’s about thinking about the company and what’s best for the company and not a competition. (Although other senior manager and board members may behave as if it were.)

Some time ago I had a very interesting conversation with Baroness Rennie Fritchie, a cross bench peer, about women in business and their role on the board. One of her laments is that businesses do not recognise that women are able to give as much as their counterparts just because they have choose to work part time and that cultural impacts should also be considered and indeed embraced. Again it was about being who you are and not trying to be something different.

When appointing people to the role of non-executive director it’s the skills, knowledge and person the board wanted and so its important that women continue to be who they are and not attempt to be clones of the others. Sadly some who are recruiting to boards still consider appearance, other business interests and aspirations and so discount what may have been one of the greatest board assets,

We often tell our children that its really important to be themselves and not copy anyone else, at what in point in life does it become OK to do so?

To be authentic and true to ourselves is perhaps one of the best gifts we can give ourselves, our family and friends and the people we work with whether in the business or our customers and suppliers. And as leaders we are then giving permission for the others in the business to do the same as people model leaders.

Generations X and Y are doing this for themselves more and more and now is the time for us to do something different too and be who we are because the way have been doing business isn’t working and its time to do something different. Remember the most successful businesses are those who are doing something different.

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