Five workplace practices every feminist leader should adopt
Feminism: Equality, equal opportunity and not discriminating on the grounds of gender. So, do you just have to believe in these feminist principles to be a feminist leader? Unfortunately it is not that easy. There is more to feminist leadership than being a woman in a leadership role that believes in gender equity.
I was asked about feminist leadership recently and the first thing that popped into my head was a woman who would describe herself as a feminist leader telling me with quite an air of authority that emailing was not part of a feminist leadership practice because feminism is about talking. Wow, I thought at the time I am stuffed and so are most of the women that I know to be feminist leaders. So accepting that good feminists can and will email, tweet and even partake in the odd Facebook update, what does feminist leadership look like?
There is no holy grail of feminist leadership practice but there are leadership styles that are feminist friendly. The leadership style that I have adopted for my leadership practice is highly compatible with my feminist beliefs and is known as adaptive leadership.
Five adaptive leadership practices for feminist leaders:.
See structures: Leaders often are tasked with creating change to fix a problem. Often the easy response is to look for a simple solution, blame an individual, a department or a piece of equipment. Feminists know that sexism resides in our structures and for lasting and real change to occur it is our structures that must alter. As leaders we must open ourselves to the possibility that the quick fix that may work for a week or even a couple of months may not be the solution. We must look at the structures in which problems reside. Feminist practice involves a leader seeing beyond the surface of a problem and looking at workplace and societal structures to locate the origin of a problem and not just dealing with the symptoms.
Don’t rush to blame the victim: How often have we heard that women get paid less because they don’t know how to ask for a pay raise. If only the victim could get their act together their problems would just melt away. Feminists understand that women are often blamed for the disadvantage they experience. As feminist leaders we must not blame the victim we must see what is acting upon the individual or the system they are operating in. If a woman is getting into work late because she has to drop off her kids at school instead of blaming the woman for being tardy see if there is a way to incorporate a later start into their work routine. Instead of blaming a worker that never gets their job done on time no matter how often you tell them they must meet their deadlines how about asking a curious and nonjudgmental question. Such as what impacts your ability to deliver on time and ask yourself what is in the worker’s control and what is not.
Be honest and create strong relationships: The stereotypical workplace leader is often someone, usually a man who is distant, tough and unemotional. We are told he needs to stay aloof so he can make the hard decisions he needs to make every day. He is detached and often uses the hierarchy of the workplace to remain removed from his workforce. Feminist leaders are honest and open themselves up to being vulnerable. Feminists call out sexism when they see it; they say how sexism impacts them, even though they may be seen as weak or just a PC whinger. As leaders we need to be honest even when we may be criticized or have to make a reassessment about how much we as an individual are contributing to a problem. Honesty can also make as vulnerable. The honest truth may be, I don’t know enough to make a decision at this time or I worry that my staff can’t complete tasks as well as me that is why I rather just do things myself even if it is not my job. By being honest with ourselves and others we can create lasting relationships built on trust and tackle the wicked problems we face every day. When these strong relationships are in place it is more likely staff will stick with you when the going gets tough and hard and even unpopular decisions need to be made.
Support other women: It is the great feminist tradition to support other women so that they can achieve the same success as you and maybe even more success. Feminists have taken on the boy’s club by forming their own networks. Feminists know the value of working together. In my career I have tried to help women whenever possible and in turn I have some great women mentors that I know are there for me when the going gets tough. But the best part of this whole system is that the woman you help today maybe the woman that gives you a helping hand tomorrow.
Collaborate: Leaders often talk a lot about themselves, I did this and I implemented that. When I hear leaders saying I,I,I like a broken record the first thing I think, is how hard is your team or followers going to work for you if they have no ownership in the success. When the chips are down you are going to be on your own. Great feminist achievements such as the right to vote are never won because of the actions of one woman. Feminists work together sometimes in their thousands and tens of thousands to achieve change. Feminist leaders throughout history have educated and supported women so that collectively and individually women can grab the nettle of choice and opportunity firmly with both hands. A feminist leader will empower others to achieve. They will work with others openly and with respect to achieve common goals. They will credit others, when credit is due and enable those around them to enjoy the opportunities that success brings and not just hog the lime light for themselves.