Three Reasons Men Should Care About “Women’s Issues”

There are three reasons that men should care about the double bind, which happens when women are evaluated against a “masculine” style of leadership. Effective leaders have to take charge and take care, but women leaders trying to be bold and assertive can be labeled (by both both women and men) as unlikeable and bossy. On the other hand, when women leaders show their caring side, they may be perceived as “too soft.” The double bind is often seen as a “women’s issue,” but men should care as well about the impact of the unconscious bias that results from gender stereotyping.

#1. Be a “He for She”

First, men’s lives are deeply connected to the women that surround them: mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, friends, partners, co-workers and leaders.  For professional and personal reasons, the females in men’s lives will likely experience the realities of the double bind. To be an effective “he for she”, men can educate themselves to recognize the causes and effects of the phenomenon. Accordingly, they can help the women in their lives analyze and strategize more effectively when the double bind impacts them.

#2. Change the Culture to Maximize Team Performance

Any person in a leadership position is focused on ways to create high-functioning teams and good outcomes for their institution. Men in leadership need to empower and embolden all the members of their teams and they are in a unique position to keep double bind consequences from hobbling the females from achieving their best performance. As the leader, by paying attention to and addressing the subtle (and not so subtle) ways women are diminished in the workplace, a male leader can start to help everyone understand the consequences of the double bind. He can also use quantitative data to help highlight and evaluate accomplishments so that “hunches” and vague characterizations do not hinder females. Imagine a conversation like this with two people, Bill and Anya, being reviewed for promotion.

Leader: Let’s review these candidates.

Commenter: I find Anya a bit abrasive, so I think Bill would be the right person to promote. He seems to get along with everyone.

Leader: Let’s talk about this. Does Anya’s behavior impact her performance? Her sales team has been performing really well – even better than Bill’s.

Commenter: That may be so, but she is abrupt and too direct. I just have more of a sense that Bill is the right fit and he is smart and aggressive.

Leader: Well, it seems to me that Anya has also been aggressive and smart. And it doesn’t make sense to me to overlook her accomplishments just because you may have a personality conflict with a woman who has been aggressive, but not with a man. I really think we should stick to the data we have on performance.

#3. Free Yourself

Finally, a male leader should care about the deeper sources of gender-bias dynamics because these forces also impact his life. The truth is, unconscious bias can impact anyone who does not fit the stereotype for the gender the person identifies with. Let’s face it, the “hyper masculine” stereotype (aggressive, relentlessly competitive, void of emotional expression) probably does not fit the majority of men in the real workplace even though television (think: Axelrod in Billions) and movies (think: Gekko in in Wallstreet) would have us think otherwise. If we feminize the expression of emotion and masculinize violence and power, everyone is trapped.

Entering a more enlightened and informed understanding of the double bind can help men in the workplace extend the framework to see where gender stereotypes actually might be holding they themselves back. It is critical that the double bind discussion not be seen as a male vs. female debate. Instead, we should be re-crafting the dialogue to understand how each of us can escape the traps created by gender bias.

(For an excellent discussion and many practical steps, I highly recommend a study called Anatomy of Change, by Catalyst researchers Sarah Dinolfo, Jeanine Prime, and Heather Foust-Cummings.) #IWD2017 #BeBoldforChange

New Cornell Certificate Provides Women Essential Framework and Negotiation Tools to Break Through Barriers to Leadership Success

Groundbreaking online program combats unconscious bias with a new approach to help women advance and organizations address gender dynamics —

January 18, 2017 (Ithaca, NY) – Women today are half of the workforce at the beginning of the corporate talent pipeline, yet barely 19 percent at the CEO level—and underrepresented everywhere in between. To help organizations everywhere close this gap, eCornell is now offering a unique online program that provides women with a highly personalized approach to achieving their leadership goals. Designed by award-winning Cornell University professor Deborah Streeter, the new Women in Leadership certificate gives professional women in every industry and function actionable tools and influencing tactics to transform unseen barriers to success into open doors.

“Professional women today have access to lots of leadership materials, but few consider how gender interacts with organizational culture to block advancement. This certificate is a rare resource for women, giving them a private space for self-reflection paired with research and real-world insights. And, it can also help all organizational leaders, including men, better understand the gender dimensions of leadership,” said Deborah Streeter, Ph.D., faculty author and the Bruce F. Failing, Sr. Professor of Personal Enterprise and Small Business Management at Cornell’s Dyson School.

The five courses comprising the Women in Leadership certificate examine the core determinants of leadership success in the context of “the double bind”, a pervasive cultural bias involving assumptions about how women should look, think, and act. Streeter starts by exploring research on how women are often penalized for using stereotypically masculine leadership behaviors but seen as weak if their behavior is deemed too feminine.  For example, according to and McKinsey, women today are “leaning in” more—by negotiating for raises, promotions, and challenging assignments nearly as much as men—but are 30 percent more likely to get negative feedback that they’re “bossy” or “too aggressive,” and still lag men in promotion rates.[1]

The remaining courses cover essential negotiation skills, emotional intelligence, performance feedback, and work/life balance—all giving women tactics they can quickly apply to influence positive outcomes in conversations at work. Throughout, students use self-assessments and targeted activities to build confidence, become more aware of their individual tendencies, and gain new perspectives through video interviews with women leaders from a cross-section of industries—a small sampling of the thousands of interviews Professor Streeter has collected to bring authentic voices from the workforce to her classrooms.

Designed to be completed in 3 months, eCornell’s Women in Leadership program is relevant to women at any career level, but especially valuable for those in early management roles—where studies show the greatest gender disparity in promotion rates—as well as those who aspire to leadership positions and have at least three to five years of professional experience. The program also offers organizations an applied, personalized learning and development option to fill a gap in gender diversity efforts at a price point usually seen for generic one-day programs.

Students who successfully complete this certificate program receive a Women in Leadership Certificate from Cornell University’s College of Business, one of 11 Leadership and Strategic Management certificates offered by Cornell Universityin partnership with eCornell.


About Cornell College of Business
Cornell University has created a reimagined model for business education that reflects the future of business itself: flexible, collaborative, and cross-disciplinary. The Cornell College of Business unites the strengths of three business schools—The Hotel School, Dyson, and Johnson—so that every student can benefit from the combined power of business at Cornell: more degrees, faculty, resources, and expertise. Whether your focus is creating great customer experiences, solving real-world challenges, or deeply immersing yourself in a particular industry, each of Cornell College of Business’ schools offers something unique and meaningful to help you achieve greater impact sooner in your career.

About eCornell
As Cornell University’s online learning platform, eCornell delivers online professional certificate courses to individuals and organizations around the world. Courses are personally developed by Cornell faculty with expertise in a wide range of topics, including hospitality, management, marketing, human resources and leadership.  Students learn in an interactive, small cohort format to gain skills they can immediately apply in their organizations, ultimately earning a professional certificate from Cornell University. eCornell has offered online learning courses and certificate programs for 15 years to over 130,000 students at more than 2,000 companies.

[1]  2016 Women in the Workplace survey

Can We Really Have it All? Work-Life Balance Your Success

We have three HR webinars on the calendar already. On Friday, 6/24/16, you’ll learn what makes a productive and meaningful collaboration and how teams work best across boundaries and organizational silos with Professor Michele Williams. Professor Williams teaches courses on negotiation, organizational behavior and women in leadership at the graduate and undergraduate levels at Cornell University. She has led numerous executive workshops on high performance work relationships with an emphasis on communication, trust, and conflict.

On Thursday, 7/14/16, Cornell’s Associate Professor John Hausknect will discuss analytics in HR, including what leading companies are doing to strengthen the impact and reach of workforce analytics. He’ll discuss how “big data” will shape the field in years to come as it can reveal deep insights that help improve retention, efficiency, and productivity.

On Tuesday, 8/16/16, Cornell Associate Professor Beth Livingston talks about what does means to “balance” work and life. Though we often hear this term used in relation to the management of work and non-work responsibilities, it is also a source of consternation for many employees. Is it achievable? Should we change the way we think about work and life to better reflect the realities of today’s employees?

 Click here to preview this Webinar. Watch Professor Livingston discuss work/life balance above and sign up for the HR WebSeries channel here.

Test drive our new Human Resources WebSeries Channel with a 30 day free trial.  Click ‘Register Now’ to learn more. Channel subscriptions start at $39/month and $279/year.



Do Women Lead Differently? Should They Lead Differently?

Most of us have seen it firsthand: The “double bind” that professional women face at work. They are derided for being forceful or assertive, but when they show compassion or lend support, they may be seen as soft or unfit to lead. Women are set up to face a no-win situation.

In our upcoming Women in Leadership WebCast on April 20 at 1:00PM (EDT), I will sit down with Professor Allison Elias from Cornell’s ILR School to learn about her research in this area and to explore potential solutions to this frustrating dilemma. I interviewed Allison this week to learn more about her research into the behavior, in women and men, around the “double bind”.

Chris: Tell me a bit about the “double bind”. How does it affect women who are aspiring or in leadership positions? Where did it come from?

Allison: The term “double bind” emerged from academic research in the 1950s; now the term has morphed into a way to describe a “no-win situation”. Scholars of women in leadership utilize this term to refer to the dilemma that emerging and current women leaders face at work. Research has shown that often women are penalized for behavior that seems assertive or forceful but also they are dismissed as weak or even incompetent if they display a warm and supportive leadership style. This body of research about the double bind reinforces two important points: tackling implicit bias and engaging men as allies, both of which will be explained further during the WebCast.

Chris: When we spoke the other day, you mentioned the idea of “creating your own definition of success?” If you’re doubly bound, how do you do that?

Allison: Research surrounding the double bind suggests that women are encountering unexpected obstacles—some interpersonal and some structural—in their quest for workplace equality. In fact, some scholars have referred to the movement of women into the workforce as a “stalled revolution”. In other words, the corporate policies, cultural norms, and state regulations that push for equality as sameness (women wanting the same treatment and the same opportunities as men) have severe limitations when moving towards more inclusive workplaces. Although we will explore these ideas in greater depth during the WebCast, women should honor themselves by pursuing a life path that fulfills their own values. And in turn, employers should move towards restructuring work and workplaces to accomodate a wider array of personal values.

Chris: Can social networks help advance the cause or play a role here?

Allison: Women should use interpersonal relationships to learn more about themselves when determining their ideal life paths. Having candid conversations with close friends or partners allows us to gain greater insight into our own talents and limitations. Asking for feedback can elucidate potential incongruities between our own self-perception and how others view us. Having information about our own strengths and weaknesses can help us to craft a personal and professional path that aligns with the value others see in us.

Chris: We have lots to discuss on April 20. See you then, Allison.

Allison:  I look forward to it.

GO HERE to register and to take advantage of our free 30-day trial subscription to the Women in Leadership Channel.


Women Leaders and the Ongoing Debate Over Hard vs. Soft Skills

Yes, there’s an ongoing debate about whether or not women leaders should busy themselves with non-leadership-related tasks, ones that involve using “occupational” or “hard” skills (generating reports, statistical analysis, research). The argument goes that these tasks are best left to subordinate teams. This may be partially true.

At the same time, women leaders are expected to demonstrate competence and authority when working with others, hold others accountable, make difficult decisions and encourage collaboration across teams—what some might call “behavioral” or “soft” skills. Ask anyone who’s ever held a leadership position and they’ll assure you there’s nothing “soft” about leading people in an organization.

Conventional wisdom suggests that a healthy and considered balance of hard and soft skills is what really makes a good leader great. This makes sense and sounds like it’s more in line with what I hear from Cornell faculty I work with everyday. And it seems more based in reality. The truth is, most organizational leaders use all manner of soft and hard skills, each day, every day.

Since we launched back in February, the Women in Leadership WebSeries Channel has covered themes like gender bias, stereotypes and strategies for navigating them, crisis communication and the women’s leadership profile. In this post’s context, they scan like the softer side of the skills spectrum.

I thought we’d switch gears a bit for this next one to see if we can insert some hard skills education into the mix, to bring balance to the Women in Leadership Channel.

Last week I sat down with Mary MacAusland, CPA, PhD, a senior lecturer at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. Mary and I discussed how important it is for organizational leaders to understand financial statements. The financial statement is one of the primary tools that can help a leader make sound business decisions. For many, it’s the go-to data set for determining organizational strategy.

Whether you’re unfamiliar with financial statement interpretation or someone who’s seen many a financial statement in your day, I think you might benefit nonetheless from Mary’s insight. As a woman leader, understanding basic financials can do nothing but benefit your career.

We’ll go through an insightful case-study review of Starbucks statements from 2012-2015 as a platform for understanding how these reports work. I invite you to join Prof. MacAusland and me on Friday May 6 at 1:00PM for our next Women in Leadership event, Leadership Hard Skills: Understanding Financial Statements (navigate to the Women in Leadership Channel listings and you can enjoy a 30-day free trial subscription).


Do Women Lead Differently? Should They Lead Differently?

Here is a 5-minute excerpt from our recent WebCast for women leaders, Do Women Lead Differently? Should They Lead Differently?. Professor Allison Elias from Cornell’s ILR School introduces us to the “double bind” that professional women face at work. This session can help you identify and use your strengths and talents—whether those are masculine or feminine attributes—to have power and influence in your organization while also crafting your own definition of success. check it out:

If this excerpt has piqued your interest, I recommend you sign up for your free 30-day trial subscription here and enroll through the Women in Leadership Channel.

3 Simple Truths for CEOs from Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

At the second “fireside” chat at Dreamforce 2013, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was actually left speechless and blushing by a few statements from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg as she covered topics from aggression in the workplace to gender bias and even a tip for improving your sex life (hint for the men, do more laundry).

The top takeaways from the evening:

Girls Aren’t Bossy, They Just Have Executive Leadership Skills

“When a boy leads, we don’t call him bossy because he is expected to lead. When a little girl does it, she is called bossy and told from an early age that she is not meant to lead.” – Sheryl Sandberg

From an early age, professional ambition is expected of men, but is often thought of as optional, or even negatively for women. “She is so ambitious” isn’t exactly seen as a compliment in most countries. The same “ambitious” behaviors from men are often labeled “aggressive” when coming from women.

More Women Leaders Makes You as a CEO Look Better

Studies show that more diversity leads to more innovation and productivity. If as a CEO, you are willing to talk about and address gender bias directly and work better with 50% of the population, it’s a huge advantage for everyone in your company.

“I want to have more women leaders at Salesforce and have more balance between my men and women leaders. It’s selfish because I know it will create a better company and that reflects on me.” – Marc Benioff

Women May be the Answer to World Peace

If we had more women at the political tables around the world, who knows how different the decisions would be. Benioff asked Sandberg if she thought the world would be more peaceful if women were in charge. Her answer: “I say let’s try it. It couldn’t get any worse!”

Despite friendly encouragement from Benioff, Sandberg denies any desire to run for president. She says despite it being a landmark milestone, having a female president in the US won’t erase the major issues. “We need to see [women] represented in all parts of leadership, in corporations and government” before we start to see a real change.

“Real change will come when powerful women are less of an exception.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Utilizing Gender Pay Issues to Inform HR Policies

Beth Livingston Examines Gender Roles and Their Impact on the field of HR

Beth Livingston, HRS Assistant Professor at Cornell University, studies gender roles and their impact on employer relationships. She is currently expanding work on a CAHRS grant, out of which was published an article in 2008. In 2011, Livingston started expanding on the paper, looking at sexist attitudes about women in workplace. “I’ve found that men with more sexist mindsets make more money than women, whereas men with egalitarian attitudes don’t show a gender-wage gap,” she explains.

As a human resource expert, Livingston wants to know what this means for employers and employees. “Why the wage gap?” asks Livingston. “Do individuals with different sexist attitudes negotiate differently? Is it discrimination? What is happening? Understanding interpersonal issues can help us take the next steps in terms of what to do about the wage gap,” she points out.

For instance, Livingston’s CAHRS research centers around employer/employee relationships. Each person’s role orientation was identified, and then each person was put in a mock interview situation, where one person played the part of the boss, and one person played the role of the employee. “We wanted to see if these people focused on different things during the interview based on their gender attitude,” explains Livingston, such as being more or less assertive. “Is a male with more egalitarianism focused more on salary? Or if someone gets paid less do they negotiate for more flexibility?” Initially, the results of the survey indicated a difference in how people negotiate. The thought is that traditional men are less likely to have flex time than egalitarian men.

The second step to the research included a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79)  The final part of the grant – in progress as this article goes to press — involves MILRs and undergraduates getting jobs right now. “We started off by determining their gender attitudes and then looked at their first job offers,” she explains. “How do they negotiate, and for what sorts of things? Did they get flex time? Did they ask for it?

“Even controlling for types of job, we have already found differences in wages in our 2008 research on gender-role attitudes,,” Livingston states.  As every company knows, rewards can be seen as more appealing than salary. One example would be a total package of rewards that includes all those things.”

“We intend to look at the data with a finer analysis. Some men value family – and this type of personality adds a nuance to gender distribution particularly in regards to work and family,” says Livingston. “Women may get paid less but they’re not dissatisfied by what they’re getting paid. Not all women and men have the same family values,” she explains. The research project will wrap up with a paper estimated to be completed by summer of 2013.

What’s Next?

Livingston is currently working with two PhD students on gender and how it relates to work and family. She’s interested in looking at employees holistically. “In order to understand how to look at rewards, you have to look at the total picture. I’ll be examining couples and how their interaction affects work decisions – particularly as they relate to ex-patriot positions,” she explains.

Livingston is looking to analyze how organizations address their employees’ work. It can be easy to talk about policy but more broadly, how do employees experience this in terms of their partners?

Moreover, Livingston is looking at negative attributions such as “how organizations can reduce blame and provide resources with the possibility of avoiding negative attributions.” For instance, every employee will, at some point, experience negative work and family spillover—but who do they blame for it? Who is perceived to have caused the conflict? How individuals perceive these interactions and how they attribute blame for them might also help us understand how organizations can manage this inevitability.

The Power of Words

Livingston is also pursuing the stereotype of women as catty, and is working on an article about the label of conflict as catty. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandburg – whose Leaning In spurred a debate about the privilege of having a career and family — commented on the book, saying, “Everyone loves a fight — and they really love a catfight,” she writes. “The media will report endlessly about women attacking other women, which distracts from the real issues. When arguments turn into ‘she said/she said,’ we all lose.”

“When men debate, it can be heated and filled with conflict. But when women have the same types of debates, it becomes a label,” points out Livingston. We examine the effects of how people are perceived as a result, she says. And above and beyond the “catty” label, she’s looking to prove how careful we need to be about words and also about how conflict is perceived. “Ideally, more information about this topic can reduce incivility and bullying and how is it perceived in the workplace,” she states.

In the end, Livingston points out, how can we fundamentally judge and see people if we don’t understand the psychology behind the behavior? “Policies can be put in place, but that’s not proactive. We’d like to get to the point where managers will have tools to learn to perceive but not label conflict,” she states.

Talk with Beth Livingston about any of her current projects – or to get involved in a future gender-role research endeavor.