There is no shortage of books and empirical studies about how women differ from men as leaders, bosses, co-workers and entrepreneurs. However, there is a vast chasm of disagreement about what the difference is and then what perpetuates that difference. Are we dealing with nature or are we dealing with nurture? Are we dealing with male biases or with female biases?
Two newly released books written by executive women who reached the top showcase the disparity. Dr. Sharon Hadary has spent her entire career studying women executives and how their leadership styles differ among themselves and when compared to their male counterparts. Her new book “How Women Lead” encapsulates her decades of research and experiences and outlines 8 essential strategies successful women know. Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, has written “Lean In” which outlines women’s leadership ambition gap and blames the disparity on women’s lack of engagement in setting and achieving career goals.
For the past 30 years, women have been starting businesses at twice the rate of men. Yet, women owned small businesses still account for only 29% of all nonfarm businesses in the US according to the National Women’s Business Council. In a surprising twist, less than 12% of these business actually have any paid employees other than themselves and according to the US Census Bureau only 1.8% of women owned firms have receipts of over $1 million compared to 6.2% for men owned firms. Hundreds of articles have been written in the past year about the lack of women in the Corporate Executive Suites or the lack of women in Congress. The resulting blame game for women’s lack of achievement paints women as victims or unwitting accomplices.
Clearly something is amiss
Dr. Hadary takes a slap at Hollywood’s “chick-flick” writers with the observation that it is not in women’s nature to sit back and wait until someone else fixes a problem for them as is depicted in most entertainment media. Her research has shown that women tend to roll up their sleeves and get it fixed, whatever the “it” is. She believes that women who have succeeded in corporate America combine their female strengths with their understanding of business to achieve a favorable outcome and continues on to explain why that is. Lighting many feminists on fire, Dr. Hadary states simply that Work/Life Balance is a myth – it doesn’t exist so stop worrying about having it. Addressing the other hot conversation topic – Can You Have It All – the answer is simple: “Yes, you can have it all but it’s a long life and you will have pieces at a time”. Her 8 essential strategies outlines each tip in clear detail and they begin with #1 – Lead Like A Woman.
Ms. Sandberg takes a different approach by arguing that the only difference between men and women is that men can’t give birth. The other disparities she lays at the feet of society and little girls’ cultural expectations bred by wearing pink and playing with dolls. She points out in her book that even though women earn 60% of all college masters degrees, they still occupy only 21% of the country’s executive suites. But why? Ms. Sandberg posits that it is up to the women to lean in and push their way to positions of power. She expresses frustration with the young women starting their careers who focus on finding a mentor to advance their careers – which she describes as another way of looking for Prince Charming or their Fairy Godmother – instead of leaning in to learn how businesses actually function. However, she also expresses frustration with a society that puts Dad at work and Mom at home. In Ms. Sandberg’s perfect world, half of the C-Suites would be occupied by women and half of the homes would be run by men.
Perhaps some agreement
Both books agree on two nuggets: First, the so-called Glass Ceiling is a harmful delusion. Second, women need to Lead Boldly. Dr. Hadary adds – Lead like a woman. Ms. Sandberg seems to add – Lead like a man.