How Women Leaders Adapt
Global organizations do business in countries where men are given more status than women. Wise business leaders, for the sake of effectiveness, adapt to cultures.
If you don’t adapt to cultures, “Not only will you not be effective, you might inadvertently offend someone.”
Susan Thomas, Managing Consultant with IBM Business Consulting Services, Human Capital Solutions, embraces adapting. She told me when IBM sends teams into foreign countries they are sensitive to things like:
You may find this offensive. But, the business of business is doing business within moral and ethical standards.
Thomas had suggestions for adapting:
- Send in a male team, if necessary.
- Send in more males than females.
- Let men take the lead while women quietly show their competence.
Thomas went to India with an IBM team to lead workshops for an all-male group. The first day of their engagement, she showed up in a traditional Indian outfit, not a sari, but something that included traditional pantaloons.
The group was delighted. Thomas said, “I needed to create a very solid relationship with them so that they felt comfortable working with me”
You have to fit in before you can standout.
The ultimate goal of adapting, according to Thomas, is building relationships.
We always adapt to each other. It’s the only way we connect. Gender issues may make this an uncomfortable topic. But, it’s necessary.
The good ole boys club still exists in North America. With that in mind:
Should women dress in more masculine ways in order to fit in?
Should female leaders minimize feminine qualities and embrace more masculine qualities in order to enhance their effectiveness?
Ahhh, this one gets me stirred up. I do hate it that a woman would need to be unnatural in another culture… but I do believe that it works to “fit in before you can stand out” in some countries. On the other hand, in America, I would rather push the envelope. I went to a Southern college and had to fight against some prejudice (not just of women), to get seats at the table…. I am glad I chose to stand out. When I first started in business, I dressed more masculine… but now I am all about mixing in more feminine looks. That seems to be more broadly accepted. In corporations, it is important that you look professional and dress for the level you aspire to be…I think it’s less now about whether it’s pants or a skirt.
I was hoping you would chime in today Karin. I remember our conversation re: feminine clothing and other gender issues. I’m glad a successful female leader like you is willing to share her journey. Thanks for sharing.
This topic stirs me too. It feels awkward but I still think it’s important. Long time readers know that I’m willing to stir the pot to generate useful conversation.
thanks so much. yes, I was thinking of that conversation too…I am glad you ask provocative questions.
At the end of the day, is the same old story, unfortunately. There is nothing more threatening than an intelligent and capable woman taking the lead. Why should we, women, must adapt? We are perfect the way we are. Why don’t men embrace more feminine qualities in order to enhance their real potential and effectiveness? 🙁
The power of diversity is diversity. Sadly, as you indicate, we struggle with adapting.
In the case of this post, adapting is about connecting with clients in other cultures. Having said that, it’s tough terrain in America, too.
BTW, traditional feminine qualities like listening, nurturing, and affirming are essential in business, especially in multinational and virtual team situations.
You have my best wishes.
I doubt the Indian group’s delight would be restricted, by Thomas Indian attire as she was a lady, their degree of delight would have been the same if it was a gentleman in a dhoti.
Irrespective of gender we need to Change as you quoted”You have to fit in before you can standout?.
Thanks for bringing this conversation around to both genders.
To fit in or stand out, good questions. Whether a woman or man if you want people to listen to you today fitting in with culture is important. IBM has done some research on how culture affects leadership and Hofsteade/Hofsteade & Minkov an awesome book about this type of thing called ‘Cultures and Organizations’
As the world opens up I believe the differences between woman and men will close, as people grow in themselves and stop judging people’s appearances so much we will manage to get beyond the need to fit in with other peoples ideas of right and wrong.
Growing up and trying to get a job in the UK in the late 70′ had a lot to do with how you spoke as much as how you dressed. Today this is less important. As is the dress code. But in some eastern countries and countries that are more weighted in religion the male/female separation seems to be much greater.
In the end, it has to come down to the person you are. Are you comfortable with who you are, or do you feel a need to fit in to be comfortable with not being seen for who you are not.
If your dress is not genuine then it is not going to matter, that much comes through. All the fitting in in the world will come to nothing if you can not become the person you are inside.
Reading your comment helps me see fitting in as an expression of authenticity. Sure, it can be fake or manipulative but it can also be genuine. As in the case of Susan. She values others and wants to connect…changing her dress, on occasion, is consistent with who she is…(at least that’s what came across when we talked.
There is no need to dress in masculine ways, just dress in accordance with the culture you are in. Allowing a team to feel comfortable in your presence is not gender specific.
Thanks for adding your perspective. YOu life the conversation above gender issues. Of course, my intent was to raise this issue from a gender perspective because I still see inequities in the way men and women are treated.
I am really uncomfortable with changing in order to fit in. As a woman in a largely male dominated industry and role, the push is always there from senior management to be more “male”, to be as loud and forceful as my male counterparts. This does not consider that female attributes are just as valid and can help to give balance and perspective to a team.
Absolutely dress not to give offence to another culture, but surley what makes us different can often be a building block for relationship building as we explore our differnces
Thank’s for joining in, Hazel.
My wife felt the push to be like men so much so that it became one of her motivators to start her own business.
Speaking of loud, here is another post on gender and leadership:
It is true that in some North American organizations “the good ole boys club still exists.” I have been fortunate to work in higher education where this is not the case. I don’t have to dress or act like a man in order to be effective. Individuals with strong leadership skills are valued, regardless of gender. Women and minorities are encouraged to aspire to positions of leadership. I have served as a mentor to several women and have never once indicated that they needed to “embrace masculine qualities” in order to advance in their careers. Really???
Thanks for bringing up higher ed. I was in that arena for several years and agree with your observation. My experience is there are more female leaders in higher ed than in the business world. I don’t have statistics, just observing.
My experience also indicates that in some contexts, women feel pressure to be like men in order to advance their careers. Sad but true.
Whether and when we choose to stand out or fit in has everything to do with our intentions and goals. If we stand out to “show them” in some way, whoever them is, we are more acting out at the risk of alienating others rather than making any real difference in our cause or ultimate goal.
An example: I grew up as a total “tom-boy” so when I first got into the business world I was naturally comfortable in a more masculine context. It was also natural for me to develop a mentoring relationship with a male executive as many of my coaches had been men. What I didn’t count on was how many people thought I was having an affair at one point because my mentor was a guy. While it was untrue and it felt so unfair to be wrongly accused, what I learned is that i must always be responsible for how my actions occur in the context I am in. In hindsight I probably would not have chosen differently but I could have been a lot more mindful about how my actions might be interpreted.
I don’t fully subscribe to the belief that “you have to fit in before you can stand out” though – I think that is one strategy that can work, but it isn’t the only one.
Thank you for joining in. YOu bring up the challenge of male/female interactions and it’s an important topic. Perhaps awareness is enough. Knowing there are potential pit falls is useful even if it wouldn’t have changed your decision.
While the challenge of male/female interactions is certainly something to be awake to that wasn’t actually the point I was attempting to make. So I will try again from another angle….dressing to “fit” a culture can be an act of subjugating your true self or it can be a mindful act to put yourself in the world of the culture of the people you are working with so you can actually be heard and make a difference. I think what Susan is pointing to is the latter. Yet if you personally feel like, no matter what the purpose, you would be subjugating yourself then it is probably not a good choice for you. But that doesn’t mean it is a “wrong” choice for someone else nor does it mean by making the choice to “conform” in a specific circumstance that you are setting an example that implies that women need to hide their true selves to be successful.
I appreciate and like the powerful point- Fit in before you stand out. It is so true that it applies to almost all the culture around the world. Fitting it provide opportunity to know people, practices, culture and most importantly workplace dynamics.So, unless you know, workplace dynamics, you can not think of strategy to deal with it. Ineffective leaders generally do not do such practices. I have different opinion about women leaders. People generally look for appeal. They look for emotion, connectivity and understanding. You are right that leaders should understand culture. I think it is about respect, because when you speak someone’s language, follow someone’s culture and behave in the way others behave, shows that you are concerned about others. So, whether women should look more masculine or feminine depends upon the particular context, culture and people preferences. There is no one answer applies to all the set up.
Through difference literature, experience and research I came to know that men seek appreciation, admiration for their interest and likings.I still remember when Ashwarya Roy ( former miss world) was asked some question: She replied- all men are naturally beautiful but women make them beautiful. It means women need something to become beautiful. And this answer was perhaps deciding factor.
So, it is all about men sentiment. How do you or can you understand and handle men sentiment is the key to successful women leadership.
Thank you Ajay. I’m taking one key word from your comment today…RESPECT. If we adapt to others it must be an expression of respect. As always, thank you for joining the conversation.
This post offends me greatly.
Tomorrow night I will be speaking at Columbia to a large group of women leaders.
I will tell them that…
They should NOT dress differently.!
They should NOT speak differently!
They should NOT hold themselves differently!
I will tell them to show up with their talents, their heart, their brilliant minds and open the will of those who are not as accepting.
This idea of thinking like Susan Thomas is very old school.
I deal with the large organizations that are based in Europe and Asia, I never change who I am.
But allow them to get to know me. THE REAL ME.
I allow them to see my heart. My caring. My competencies, my capabilities.
Please ALL women. Be yourself and let your inner beauty shine.
Allow yourself to Lead From Within!
I think we’re losing focus of the point of Susan’s comments. She’s talking about working on an international scale in countries where it’s well known that the social standing – and in many cases legal standing – of women is not anywhere close to the standards of western cultures. Susan’s change of attire is merely a tactic to gain respect by showing respect, and it her in a position where her foreign business partners were more open to hearing her ideas and contributions.
You can still do all the things you’ve listed in your comments (speak your mind, bring your talents, show them your true self), but if you choose to ignore the customs and standards of the people you are trying to do business with, you may do little more than put yourself in an ineffective position to do business at all.
Although you know, for the sake of readers, I’ll say, No offense intended.
It’s awkward for me to address these issues. It might appear that I’m presuming to know what it feels like from a woman’s point of view. Because I’m a guy I don’t feel worthy to address these issues. However, I have a platform and gender issues are important to me. Therefore I bring up the issue of adapting.
When I give presentations, I adapt my clothing to fit the audience. I always ask what people will be wearing. I prefer jeans but sadly, most audiences don’t. So I adapt to better gain a hearing. It’s expedient.
I think Susan’s strategy is the same.
My questions went beyond the context Susan was in. I used them to create thought.
In the end, all adaptation regardless of gender is situational.
As always, you have my respect,
I highly recommend a book for those women who are offended by having to adapt to fit in with a male dominated culture: “Thick Face, Black Heart”. In sales we must adjust and adapt to win the client, this is simply another facet of that. Let’s not get caught up in ego, and making sure we are fully expressed as women in every situation.
I was not aware of the book you mention. I always appreciate it when someone extends the conversation.
Learning to adjust to a situation is very different then asking someone to change their appearance.
Diane, you speak about Ego….
Ego happens- Only when one does not understand open heart. open mind and open will.
This theory about adapting for women’s leaders is a concept we have to let go of to allow the new way of being, thinking to come in.
I am thinking 2014 and beyond. Not 1956.
I am just suggesting that we can make adjustments to communicate more effectively, not lose who we are. That goes for men and women, wouldn’t you agree?
As I said above, I change my appearance nearly every time I speak.
I have been very fortunate in my career, in that I never felt under-valued because I was a woman. I distinctly remember attending a national meeting early in my career, sitting around the boardroom table and noting that well over half the people around that table were women. Granted, that was an exception to the rule and many boardroom tables after that had seats filled by more men than women. The women at the first table were intelligent, driven and decidedly women. I choose to be accepted for who I am, the qualities I bring and if the only way I can fit in is to become someone I am not, then I haven’t really been accepted, have I? Perhaps I have the luxury of that belief, because other women before me fought for the right to get into the boardroom; now it’s my role to get us accepted for who we are by embracing the unique qualities women bring to the boardroom table.
Thank you for sharing your story. It’s helpful to this conversation.
I believe we all adapt to others…the issue is how much. Once we lose ourselves we’ve lost everything. I don’t think putting on a shirt and tie (in my case) is losing myself.
I find this post disturbing and disappointing. I was recently working on a leadership program with senior woman struggling with these issues right here in North America. The workplace needs more of the archetypal female qualities not fewer and they can be expressed by men and women alike. Empathy, reflection, keeping options open, trusting our instincts are required if we are to retain the high quality young workers in our organizations. They want a life as well as compelling careers.and integrity in all aspects of their lives.
As a woman in my 60s I am saddened by the brutal, aggressive women I occasionally meet in my coaching work, who like their male counterparts in the 70s and 80s function in a ruthless and self serving way. My phrase for that is “more like the men than the men”.
Women (people) can be classy, dignified, attractive, intelligent, tough-minded and caring. If they are reflective and sensitive they will respond appropriately in different cultures by watching, taking cues from others, asking questions
Powerful! Thank you Gail.
When women become like men or men become like women the point of diversity has lost all it’s meaning. Rather than blending differences, we should maximize them.
A woman should never sacrifice her feminity in the workplace. We don’t need to dress “masculine” but we do need to dress professional, not distracting. I find some of the low-cut dresses that expose cleavage and clinging dresses on business women to be very distracting. Even popular news programs exemplify this and I think it’s very unprofessional.
Women leaders need not “embrace” masculine qualities. Again, they need to embrace professionalism, courtesy, and vision—the values that transcend any organization.
As to cultural sensitivity, that is a no-brainer. It is important to study a culture before meeting with them and try to establish a connection of respect.
Lovely post, Dan…. gets the feminine juices flowing.
I agree with Lolly – but not for gender reasons. We all need to be authentically who we are – open heart, open mind – ALL the time. Included with that is respect – not only for the people we are with, but for ourselves. I would be disrespecting myself if I quietly faded into the background “quietly showing my competence” if that was not who I am, and not my role within the company.
If we (U. S. and other cultures) are to begin to break down the barriers to connectivity within our increasingly global economy, we must be inclusive on all fronts – not just adapt to the one we are with. Adapting in one area leads to adapting in all areas – and that leads to flip-flopping on key issues – and breeds distrust.
So, looking to 2014 and beyond – my stance is to be authentic and respectful in all ways, to the people I am with, and to myself.
Thanks, as always, for waking me up in the morning! You, and my cup of coffee, get me going!
Geez, everyone is so wishy-washy on this topic, too bad it doesn’t strike a nerve. 😉 Tap dancing through this minefield that Dan just planted, there will always be a dynamic tension between ideal and real. There needs to be, or we will not advance the human culture.
Gender, race, religion, and/or human condition aside, as a leader, it is about connecting (and compromise/adaptation) to reach a higher goal.
Is bias, prejudice, stigmatization and/or traumatization for any of the previously mentioned realms ‘wrong’? Often history determines that it is, course it depends on who is writing history and who is determining right/wrong, but that is often the reality. Is it more insidious when it comes to gender? Not sure, however, it seems more visible.
Regarding Dan’s second lightly triggered manmine, with the leverage that EQ has attained in a relatively short time, perhaps the question could be flipped. Should men maximize their feminine qualities to enhance their effectiveness? How does that feel guys? Yes, that is also stereotyping EQ to the feminine, yet given historical perspective, probably not too far off base. As a species, rarely have we been able to put gender, race, religion aside for a common goal. When we have, humanity shines.
I believe this topic skirts (no pun intended) of allies and collective responsibility. Instead of asking what wome need to do, ( Should women dress in more masculine ways in order to fit in?
Should female leaders minimize feminine qualities and embrace more masculine qualities in order to enhance their effectiveness?) I think a white male leader could ask ‘what is my role as an ally to women?’
Just as it is white peoples responsibility to be an ally to their colleagues who are of color, men can be allies to women.
I can understand the reasoning and rationale behind what is being said when it comes to diplomatic foreign affairs, although I still do not see the usefulness in any woman having to pretend to be what she is not for any reason.
Since we are living in North America, I’d say that we are all best served when we focus on truth instead of continuing to enable oppressive practices.
I’m certain a man would not like it if the situation was reversed. If women expected men to dress in a more feminine manner so that we are not intimidated. Or even better, not allowed to look us in the eyes because that would be such an offensive and disrespectful action….
Stirring the pot is one thing. Attempting to justify the need for more oppressive practices simply because ‘the good ole boys club’ is still very much alive and well here in America is quite another.
I have struggled with this issue myself in the corporate world and in the end, realized that for ME, it was smarter to adapt than to stand out.
I am lucky (and cursed) to be an attractive and intelligent business woman. It was frustrating that I could wear the exact same dress as an older, heavier and less attractive senior executive but advised by trusted mentors that my appearace was “distracting” to some. I was resistant. It was their problem, NOT mine. I was dressing appropriately for a professional in her 30s.
Yes, early in my career, I thought it was foolish NOT to use my looks to open doors to give me the opportunity to demonstrate my brain. It WAS a good strategy to help me gain experience and credibility. However, as my career became more estabished, I resolved that I wanted to be recognized for my intelligence first. At an advertising agency I would likely blend in, but in the male dominated oil/gas industry, my appearance was at times, detracting from my message. I needed to ADAPT my strategy if I wanted people to HEAR me rather than SEE me. I realized that by adapting, I was not succumbing but rather demonstrating a core leadership skill.
I traded in my stylish boots for sensible heels, ensured I always wore a jacket over “bare” shoulders (heaven forbid) and even traded my contact lenses for glasses to “appear” smarter.
It is unwise to think that our appearance doesn’t establish the first impression and so it is important that our apearance reflects the message we are trying to send. For me, I wanted my ideas and contributions to stand out, not my appearance. For some, this may mean standing apart from the norm…
There are deep emotions associated with the subjects of male/female dress and multicultural acceptance, as evidenced by the responses above. To be a true leader, no matter what the gender or race, our presence must help the organization that we lead better achieve its purpose, while behaving ethically, than if we weren’t present. We are organizational stewards, serving it, rather than serving ourselves.
If as leaders we cling to our white or black skin, our American or Chinese customs, our masculinity or femininity, our dress code or hair style, our Corvette or Prius, or other things we hold dear, that is our perogative. We are free agents, and need not lose our identity to comply with imposed norms.
However, if those things become severe obstacles to the organization we lead and prevent it from achieving its goals, then we need either change our behavior or leave that organization. This is not to say that we should not attempt to influence the organization to accept more diversity, but it is not “my way or the highway”.
The Apostle Paul recognized this when he spoke of being “all things to all men” to win people to Christ. His burning goal and passion never changed, nor did he compromise his message. However, he never clung to his own rights when they got in the way of the mission he believed in. He was no wimp, and took on both Peter at Antioch and his many persecutors, yet picked his battles wisely, and only stirred up controversy when necessary. Whether or not one espouses Paul’s faith, it is impossible to deny the influence his life had on all of Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy.
Such selfless leadership is hard, and requires wisdom. It may also mean that we simply cannot be effective in some cultures or situations, and may need to change our focus or methods.
My parents were missionaries in West Africa for a quarter of a century, and did a lot of good. However, when Marxism came to the country in which they lived, their white skin and American citizenship became a liability to people they came into contact with, since they were rumored (falsely) to be CIA. Rather than stubbornly stay where they were and try to counteract propaganda, they moved to another country, maintaining contact and supplying funds to the people to whom they could no longer minister directly, while making their principal place of work another country. Their mission did not change, only their focus.
Part of being a leader is submitting to lose non-essential rights for the good of those we lead, just as a mother or father loses sleep, time, and money taking care of children, or a surgeon foregoes his/her time off to handle a medical emergency. We need not compromise our ethics or our identity, but do need to serve.
This is not easy, but it is right.
As a young lady just starting out, here are my 2 cents. Allowing a company to choose men over women or ask a woman to be on the quieter side seems like it would just continue the stereotype in the country you are visiting. I realize you are suppose to adhere to the other country’s customs to a certain degree, but they should also be able to follow your customs to some degree. If our country as a whole can show that women are just as capable as men then it can also help the other countries view on women, but if we ask our women to be less because of another countries customs it seems that we are showing that we believe in the same prejudices. Basically if a companies best people are women why should they be ashamed of that, but that’s what adhering to another countries gender rolls screams to me. Thanks for stirring the pot! -Tamara
I don’t mind changing my clothes but after years of quietly letting men take the lead while I proved my competence, guess what? They’re still leading and they are no more competent.
If you are the leader, then LEAD in every culture. They cannot afford to disrespect you and btw- India had one of the world’s first female Prime Ministers and that was in the 60’s.
I dislike the word offended…bottom line – being offended is a choice! What I see is a woman willing to find the middle ground to make a buck or a sale. Some might see this as a sellout; other may say she’s a smart cookie. Either way, it’s her decision.
Very interesting post! and so actual.
Adaptation is indeed a feminine quality which is not the only attribute of women; men can also build their feminine qualities -actually they should ASAP if we want this world to get in a better shape.
In the meantime, we women, continue to do naturally what we know so well. As long as we don’t betray our deep Self, playing with both masculine and feminine attributes means sharpening our leadership skills.
As a woman leader, I definitely adapt my style not only to the culture I work in but also to the business mood each day and because (let’s be realistic) the business world is still very masculine (in all corporations I work with, female board members and senior leaders were only handful), I adapt to the men! This includes my communication style, my clothing (from high heels to flat men shoes!) or my attitude.
I don’t think it’s a problem at all – if we want to change the world we live in, we have to embrace the change and not wait for men to take the step.
Some intelligent men (still not enough of them unfortunately) are helping this change become more important. That’s great.
Let’s all be cameleons but true to our values!
I love the saying ” you have to fit in before you can stand out” it is very true 🙂
As for the last two questions, it depends on what kind of attitude exists where you work. If the good ol’ boy air is thick, a power suit is best, I say. If the trend is diverse, eclectic and inclusive – then you can be more lax in this area as well. Unfortunately, we live in a society where there exists double standards on all levels.
Dan – thanks for starting the conversation! Our conversation was in the context of global leaders – and an important aspect of becoming a global leader is an understanding for, and respect of, the cultures and viewpoints of the people with whom you work. There are some countries, particularly in the Middle East, where only men can be onsite – women on the project work behind the scenes. In other countries, it’s in the middle -there are some women in leadership roles in these countries – as in India – and their numbers are growing. But as I noted, fitting in first is key to building relationships – and that’s what women do best. So if we focus on what’s needed to build relationships as a global leader, then we see the potential impact of first impressions which unfortunately are often linked to what we are wearing. In the US and most European countries, strong women leaders are respected.
I can remember the early 90’s when I started my career. Women that worked for my firm could only wear skirt suits. After a few years we were all thrilled when a new policy came out allowing us wear pant suits with matching jacket and pants. Slowly but surely attire continued to evolve and eventually I needed to be and look professional but could still bring “me” (the woman) to the table with my choice of attire. Depending on my client, sometimes I’d dress more conservatively or more creatively but that choice was not based on my personal preferences but definitely based on respect for my client’s organization and culture. After all, my work is not about me, it’s about my clients.
Today I am a leader that better understands the rules of my younger days but I also appreciate the freedom and empowerment that comes with making changes a choice.
Hi Dan, it’s quite a post seeing all the comments ! Just to share quickly my thought, I personally think that adapting yourself with your environment is a natural and common way in order for us to embrace people better in achieving our goals. I believe we have good control of ourselves to not letting us become “another person” while adapting to environment. We, after all, are professionals in our working world. I am lucky enough to work in a company with good culture, male dominated, where I can adjust myself, despite the fact that I am a woman, and also, wearing hijab.
First, having grown up in an Asian culture, I do agree that the company needs to adapt to the foreign culture they are doing business in. Even if this means “letting the men take the lead”, especially in the initial stages of the relationship. There are still cultures that think women should be relegated to minor roles and companies in this type of culture might be hesitant to do business with a corporation led by a woman.
Second, as to the question should women dress more masculine to fit in, I disagree. I believe that people (men or women) should stand out — obviously in an appropriate way. I think you should adapt to what your clients might consider appropriate. But then, I think your work should be more important than what you wear.
Lastly, I don’t think women should minimize their feminine qualities at all. I think effectiveness does not come simply from feminine or masculine qualities. It comes from a strong work ethic, among other good leadership qualities.
Gender inequality is a result of consistent discrimination of one group of people based upon gender. Gender inequality is one causal factor of violence against women. While gender discrimination happens to both men and women, discrimination against women is an entrenched, global epidemic.
Is acceptance of gender inequality (in dress and speech) a solution to this problem?
Great conversation. I was assigned to India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand in the late 90s and while mindful of custom, culture and the climate (heat), I dressed appropriately. I even wore the traditional clothing presented to me as gifts at times especially if visiting a sacred place. However, I never changed who I was, what I stood for and what I wore, therefore created quite a following …. especially with the women! I still keep in contact with some of these people, in particular the men who have ‘progressed’ these societies.
“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult.”
Warren G. Bennis
Dan — love all the energy your post has generated!
Because of my passion for women in business stepping into their power and influence, I look at “fitting in” from a different angle. Before one decides if fitting in is the appropriate response, the “fitness” of the environment must be assessed. Has the current state outgrown its usefulness? Is it perpetuating stereotypes and unconscious bias? Is it based on competition, aggression and bottomline focus at the expense of people and principles?
If so, then both women and men have to band together to reweave the fabric of leadership so there’s room for both “take charge” and “take care” abilities. Fitting in into the old model isn’t appropriate for either gender. Rather, it’s creating a “new normal” that’s based on inclusiveness where no one has to fit in.
Jane, I really like the inclusivity of what you are saying here. And, the possibility that the organizational culture needs to change so no one needs to fit in to stand out.