A Research Paper By Aleksandra Kowalska, Business Coach, SPAIN
I would like to start by saying that I am very passionate about working as a coach with women, see how we think, dream, grow and change – celebrate our diversity.
We live in a very masculine world still and it has been my mission to investigate the ways we can support each other as women, get to know each other´s needs, and face all the difficulties that come with our gender when working as professionals. We need to talk about changing the way things are and dream big, to know that we can do anything we want in our lives truly free, liberated, intelligent, and confident.
In this paper I will present the following topics:
- The myths about female leaders
- Difference between two genders
- Female Leaders Coaching
- Gender differences and Coaching
- The Role of Coaching
- Female Leaders Coaching Model – PASS
The Myths That Hold Women Back at the Workplace
Gender inequality exists in the workplace. As women we need to be diligent to keep the conversation about it going, talking about the diversity at work as well as how to build resilience. Inequality has been an issue for decades and concerns every woman that enters the professional career, therefore, tackling the issues has become especially difficult as we became desensitized, so it is essential to be bold and speak out about the common myths of gender inequalities as they appear.
The False Four (Common Myths About Female Professionals):
Women Choose to Devote the Time to the Family Instead of the Workplace
The assumption here is that women cannot handle the demanding family life and the dynamic work life. It is unfair to assume that a woman will not take the lead of the project because that would mean more hours or that the single woman has to take all the workload that nobody else wants to catch up on.
Having children is not an excuse to withhold a growth opportunity from a woman at work. Women are often pillars of our homes and our communities and children are not our excuses, they are our REASON.
Women are really good at multitasking. If you want something to be done, ask a woman!
Women Are Too Emotional to Lead
Women leaders are not too emotional, there is time and place that there is a space to show great empathy. A woman´s ability to show empathy uses thoughtfulness and her intuition is not a sign of weakness. It makes a very positive work culture and certainly does not lead to emotional decision-making.
Statistics on women’s leadership do not support this myth, Peterson Institute of International Economics of Business analyzed the data from 22.000 globally trading companies in 91 countries, showed that having at least 30% of women in leadership positions adds 6% to the net profit margin of a business.
Women Are Just Not Interested in Technology and Other Male-Dominated Industries
Women seek degrees in male-dominated industries at considerable rates but men are still preferred in the male domains more than women as well as receive bigger salaries than their female counterparts.
Younger Women Are More Valuable at Work Than Older Ones
This is not a competition. All women are valuable, and “when you are living and breathing you are not done”. Age and wisdom is an incredible asset.
Now, we need to remember that if you tell a lie often enough you really start to believe it, if we believe the myths and untruths about women in the workplace we will take them as factual representations of gender inequality.
The bottom line is that you do not have to accept the myths, the mold, the status quo, you can create your own reality.
Supporting other women is our mission!
Difference Between Two Genders
Men and women are guided by their own logic and perspective respectively. They think, act, and are educated differently. They look, observe, perceive, highlight and fulfill their needs in different ways. Some claim that the differences are due to socio-cultural, educational, psychological, and even biological questions. Therefore, one can start reflecting on the situation raising the question: Women and Men, two worlds or two viewpoints?
Social Viewpoint: Personal Relationships
Historically, there are different expectations towards men and women. Women are expected to provide support, be understanding and offer service, whereas men are expected to be successful professionally, provide for their household, be strong, decided, and in control.
Women´s satisfaction, in general, is related to their social interactions and their family bonds, so they choose to cooperate and accept that their contribution can serve a bigger purpose. Women need to find pleasure in their day-to-day activities, therefore, their professional life must allow for family time. The professional and family lives are integrated, they are one.
Psychological Viewpoint: Intuition and Creativity
Women use intuition as a tool when rational thinking is not enough in their workplace. Logic is indispensable to organize thoughts and emotions, however, it should not discard the intuitive intelligence, which for various reasons tends to be the female domain. Unfortunately, in the professional surrounding, intuition tends to be overlooked and its importance belittled.
Both intuition and creativity are mostly developed in the right hemisphere of the brain.
Emotional Viewpoint: Emotional Intelligence
Emotion – the definition says it is: ¨instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge.¨ Daniel Goleman defines Emotional Intelligence as a person’s ability to manage their feelings so that those feelings are expressed appropriately and effectively. According to Goleman, emotional intelligence is the largest single predictor of success in the workplace.
In the research conducted by Goleman, it is showed that on average women have more awareness of their emotions, show more empathy, and are more capable of creating interpersonal relationships.
Biological and Organic Viewpoint: Brain
According to scientists the differences between female and male brains can derive from genetic factors. Neuroscience states that each person develops based on their natural genetic identity. There is a biological platform that underlies the existence of two kinds of the brain: a masculine brain and the feminine one. The differences are observed in both: the development and reaching maturity of some parts of the brain, especially when it comes to children; girls´ brain seems to mature earlier than the boys´ one.
Not only do the female and male brains vary in their architecture but also in a way they establish the strategies to process information and emotions but also in a way of generating responses.
Furthermore, the magnetic resonance shows that man has more grey matter in the brain, which indicates more activity in the left hemisphere and predominant logical thinking and women demonstrate having more white matter, which in turn proves brain´s activity takes place in both hemispheres simultaneously, which reduces the division between logical and intuition activities in the female brain.
Female Leaders Coaching
Coaching strategies depend on the coachee, therefore I would like to describe the various coaching niches/gaps where coaching can support and help women. The following issues raised here aim at identifying a few contexts, in which a woman’s situation differs from the men’s one.
- The gaps that still kept in several economic sectors, where a woman does not have equal opportunities to access certain positions and the energy and effort invested there is considerably bigger than the one required from their male counterparts.
- The limiting beliefs engraved in women’s minds about the social roles and the way they ¨should¨ act, speak, look, be as professionals, mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, students, etc…
- Self – limitations that a woman imposes on herself as a professional, which can cause a lack of self-esteem and confidence and finally incapability to peruse her goals.
- A very short history of female leadership in the world requires paving the way for others without valid models or success stories to follow, that would help to learn and navigate in the man´s world.
- Personal attributes and leadership qualities are demonstrated by a woman apart from her specifically feminine characteristics that she starts to express in the workplace and that is perceived as an added value to compete and develop.
- The difficulties to reach a natural balance between the personal wellbeing and of others surrounding them that is projected in the work-life.
The above issues raise many existential topics for women, which question their values, personal and professional behaviors, the meaning of their realizations and satisfaction as well as future projections like:
- Could my life be different?
- Do I want it to be different?
- Which aspect of my life do I want to be different?
- How far do I want to get?
- What is it that I really want, what does it mean to me to be successful?
- Why do I desire something?
- Am I aware of the internal resources I possess that I necessary to make the change in me and my surrounding?
- Do I have a plan for life to achieve what I want?
- How will I carry it out?
- How can I include the people I care about in this plan?
- How will I know that I have reached my goals?
- What can I do to keep growing?
Coaching that can recognize personal circumstances and differences can be most effective in this internal dialogue carried out by the women.
Gender Differences and Coaching
Psychological Differences and Coaching
When it comes to coaching women it is important to remember that women are more motivated and interested in:
- Achieving objectives for the whole team.
- Team success.
- Working in the atmosphere of cooperation rather than competition.
- Tend to take responsibility for the mistakes rather than blaming others in general.
Taking the above factors into consideration can help the coach relate better, understand the problem properly and assist the coachee in coming up with solutions.
Communication Differences and Coaching
The main difference in communication between men and women is the reason why they decide to communicate and what they are talking about.
Jennifer Coates studied discussion groups of only men and only women and noticed that when women talk among themselves they reveal much more of their personal lives. They also tackle more personal issues, spend more time on them, and make sure that all of them participate in the conversation.
Men, on the other hand, do not tend to speak about their personal issues but choose to focus on topics like politics, religion, sports, news, art, history, etc. Jennifer also noticed that when the groups are mixed men tend to speak more, express their opinions with more confidence, irrespectively of their status or position in the company. In contrast, women strive to connect and generate intimacy while communicating.
The Role of Coaching
Coaching helps to make choices in the professional areas, assists the woman to find the passion and the meaning because it is essential to be successful, happy, and truly accountable. Self–awareness plays a vital role in this process as well as knowing what your strengths and desires are, who you are, what are your values, and being able to assess yourself every step of the way. It is important that the women can dream about what they really want to experience in their lives.
A coach can also help the coachee in building their self-confidence but getting to know themselves.
Another very important way, the coach can contribute to the growth of a woman coachee is to help her create a support network that consists of meaningful relationships, and establish the action strategies focused on achieving her goals. A coach can achieve that by:
- Embrace and strengthen the way the woman sees herself (self–perception) at work and analyze the ways, the woman can emphasize their strengths when establishing new contacts, feeling authentic, true to herself.
- Plan and prepare to generate new contacts proactively, defining where, how, and when.
- Reinforce the existing contacts, focussing on deciding where to invest best.
- Differentiate the professional contacts from the family, social, and others because each of them requires a different treatment and involves a different bonding style.
A coach can assist their female client to find the balance between professional and family life, develop themselves in all aspects of their lives to become complete human beings, and build resilience.
Women and men that bear the positions of Leaders need to face lots of pressure, long working hours, and daily challenges. The difference between men and women is that women go to work, “change the hat” and start their “other” job, which is exhausting and may lead women to reconsider their careers. Some women flourish, some other diminish under such conditions.
Resilience is necessary to work and maintain your skills up high. Resilience is a process in which a person can think, act successfully under pressure, and recover quickly, adapt to new circumstances, and even become stronger.
Women are usually very demanding towards themselves when working and growing, however, to be sustainable in the process they need to overcome several problems and obstacles, they should also understand and reinforce their support system, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Therefore, the development of balanced resilience consists of:
- Cognitive Resilience: Working on creating positive beliefs about themselves and the world by recognizing the negative beliefs, extending their ability to resolve the problems, and identifying their strengths.
- Emotional Resilience: Recognize and develop their own emotions and other people´s emotions and the ability to manage their impulsiveness.
- Attitude Resilience: build sustainable networks, take care of the physical aspects in the moments of crisis and reinforce the self-esteem by focussing on their strengths.
Female Leaders Coaching Model – Pass
I would like to present a PASS coaching model, which I will describe in detail in my coaching model paper. It consists of:
P – Personal – Here, a coach and a coachee create a relationship based on mutual trust and confidence. It is established by being present and accepting at all times.
This stage is very important for female coachees as in general they are all about bonding and creating relationships
A – Awareness – Here, a coach helps the coachee to gain self-awareness through several tools.
S – Structure – Here, a coach challenges the clients via powerful questions, helps them to identify their goals, and accompanies the coachee in finding the best-suited structure and action plan.
S – Support – Here, a coach supports the coachee in following through with their action plan and becomes the accountability partner, a team player, a kind and supportive mirror for the clients.
When I was writing this paper I conducted a mini-survey, I asked 35 women, professionals, from different countries and various walks of life about their present job satisfaction.
My main purpose was to measure their job satisfaction and to see what are the biggest motivators and obstacles for them.
The survey consisted of 10 multiple questions and according to the responses in questions number 9 women rely on the family members for support when tackling changes in the professional field. That would confirm the opinion I expressed earlier in this paper that women rely on the family members and the relationships they have built throughout the years.
In question 4, it is so clear to see that all women know their skills. I mentioned in previous points that women seem to be more directed inside rather than outside and they tend to know their strengths and weaknesses better.
In question 10, women mentioned that poor promotion and development opportunities seem to be the biggest challenge, but not only, creating relationships with co-workers is another big challenge, which also proves what has mentioned earlier that women are focused on creating relationships.
Desarollo y Coaching de Mujeres Lideres, Fabiana Gadow, Granica
Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
Women, men and language, Jennifer Coates, Pearson Longman, London