Battle of the sexes in the workplace

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What’s mindset got to do with it?

We all know how important early childhood experiences are in shaping our beliefs and values.

I was sent to an exclusive Montessori nursery school in the leafy suburb of Wimbledon. The school was run by a benevolent couple, Mr and Mrs Parsons.

It was a typical Wednesday afternoon in 1964 and I was five years old. Mr. Parsons would take the boys to the local playing fields to play football while the girls went to the kitchen with Mrs Parsons to bake cakes.

I would get incensed with envy and injustice; why did I have to get dragged outside in the freezing English winter, get rained on to do pointless exercises in a muddy field, when all I wanted to do was stay in a warm kitchen and learn how to bake delicious cakes – all because of my gender.

An recent article in the Sunday Times explains how at school girls are expected to work hard, whereas it’s more acceptable for boys to fool around and not bother so much with school work – “real boys are not supposed to study”.  Author Stephanie Coontz explains that traditionally men will succeed by virtue of their male status, which diminishes the necessity to work hard. For example until recently men would become managers in preference to their female colleagues with the same qualifications and experience.

Sociologist RW Connell calls this the “patriarchal dividend” which gives males preference over females in almost every area.

Interestingly research also shows that men rely less on negotiation, as in most countries husbands have the final say in the household and financial decisions.

However it’s all change now, adhering to traditional male stereotypes is increasingly closing doors for boys and men. The ‘patriarchal dividend’ has now become a ‘patriarchal penalty’. Many of the short-term privileges that still exist for men come with serious long-term costs – and not just in the workplace.

Research at London School of Economics shows that the higher a husband’s participation in housework and childcare the lower the chance of divorce.

How can the right ‘corporate mindset’ encourage a culture of real learning and development in the workplace, rather than just paying lip service to it?

What are the additional work place challenges faced by those cultures where male superiority is more firmly entrenched than in the UK?

How can you ensure that your managers (both male and female) are really challenging themselves to develop new skills to enable them to lead their teams to achieving vastly improved performance?

What new challenge are you going to take on that you could fail at? Find out more about mindset – it’s not just talent and ability that brings about success.

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