This summer, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight that first landed men on the moon. Just eight years before, President Kennedy gave his famous speech calling for America to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade. At the time, the goal seemed both impossible and within reach. It would require a level of collaboration, innovation and commitment never before accomplished in the world, and an unwavering focus on a light in the sky previously accessible only in our imaginations. In July 1969, Neil Armstrong took his famous “giant leap for mankind.”
Today, we are dedicated to creating the workplace of the future, in which the leadership strengths of men and women are deployed equally, in combination more powerful than either can be on their own. The goal seems both impossible and within reach at the same time. There is endless conversation about why women need to be included in organizational leadership and reams of data establishing that, when women lead organizations, result across all measures improve. Nonetheless, the same data also shows that, despite a tremendous investment of resources, we are making no meaningful progress and may even be sliding backward. Our focus on the future world previously accessible only in our imaginations seems to be fading out of sight.
The commonly accepted (and overly generalized) problem statement is that society views men as better than women, and women in many instances behave as though they are less than men. The solution everyone comes up with, as we did originally, as well, is to separate men and women and work on elevating women.
See also: 3 Keys for Building Women Leaders
Women generally acknowledge we have some work to do to clear through barriers we put in front of ourselves and to overcome the inner voices telling us we are less than. Companies and media outlets are raising awareness of hidden gender bias. The market is overcrowded with women’s networking organizations, training programs, conferences attended by thousands of women, a plethora of books written by women with star power and movies about strong women, all aimed at “inspiring and supporting” women. Women are inspired and supported, but the work isn't making any meaningful difference. A few years ago, a study projected that it would be 140 years before we achieved gender parity in the C-suite. A few weeks ago, that number was updated to 204 years. At the same time, a survey of male executives revealed that about 60% of them refuse to work on projects with or be alone in a room with a female colleague.
We believe the problem is that incremental change can’t accomplish transformational goals. Women need to jump the abyss, rise up above the quagmire of little things that keep us stuck in place and stay focused on the possibilities from a new world view. We call it jumping the abyss because it requires a willingness to leave behind the comfort of our belief system and jump toward the unknown of what can be but isn’t yet. However imperfect, the status quo is at least familiar and is scary to leave it behind. This type of leap is necessary if we want to make progress, because incremental change keeps us stuck in the quagmire.
The mistake we are making is the assumption that women need to jump the abyss on their own power and for themselves. We believe women need to be self-propelled. However, women can’t execute the leap on our own. This is the crux of why a tremendous investment of resources is not producing meaningful progress. To accomplish something that has previously existed only in our imaginations, we need a level of collaboration, innovation and commitment never before accomplished in the design of organizational leadership. For women to successfully jump the abyss, men and women must make the leap together.
See also: Why Women Are Smarter Than Men
What’s available on the other side is the opportunity for women and men to work together as partners in leadership, designing and building the workplace of the future. All are welcome, and there is no longer any doubt that all will benefit from a new approach. We don’t have a leader today who can put out a call we will all be inspired to answer, as President Kennedy did. We have to decide on our own that we are ready to take “one giant leap for mankind” and then do it. Every person can play a role.
Are you willing?
If you want to engage in conversation, if you want to explore how women can move forward, breaking through the tangles and making transformational changes for themselves and those around them, we would like to talk with you. Please reach out to us or check our website at www.hightidesgroup.com