Diversity is an interesting concept that is increasingly being bandied around in corporate boardrooms and the corridors of power across the globe. Stephen Covey is quoted to have said: “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”. The importance of gender diversity, in particular on a company’s bottom line and its impact in improving quality decision making, is widely enumerated in numerous publications. However, it wasn’t till relatively recently that I came to a genuine appreciation of its potential for impact in practical terms.
Let me get to the point and state here that this write-up is not another campaign for equity or equality, (depending on which side of the divide you sit on), but a discussion around certain complexities that we need to explore further. I had the opportunity to embark on a 66-day journey with a team I set up; a peer group that was accountable to each other.
Our sole purpose was to hardcode positive acts that each individual had chosen to work on into habits. The objectives for each individual was simple: pick a habit you wish to change, spend the next 66 days working on it, and post on the WhatsApp group we created how you are meeting your objectives, encouraging other teammates to stay the course. The results were beautiful, but the process and the experience epic.
While going through the daily posts, I noticed an interesting pattern. The men in the group were either giving us a chronological presentation of their day, or bulleted points of their achievement ending with a quote or a motivation of some sort. The women on the other hand went far beyond that. The nature of their posts got me to appreciate the depth to which they process issues.
The descriptions of their day were beautifully expressive, woven from a whirlwind of perspectives, thoughts, fears, triumphs, doubts, uncertainties, successes and so much more. I am still in awe as to how a simple post about exercising, or praying, or adopting one habit or another can evoke so many perspectives and emotions; and even as an empath, I do not think I have the capability of walking in their shoes.
These are insights that I do not think a single write-up can truly capture, but it made me realise two essential things. First, many of us lack the patience or depth as men (much to our detriment, I believe) to appreciate the many considerations that a woman may take into account when making a decision – a strength many of us have discounted as a weakness or a distraction.
The second realisation is the need for modern leaders to embrace this level of depth when making decisions, but with a lot less hesitation. One could argue that if this way of looking at life could be taught across the board and practiced until it becomes second nature, we would have the power of considering all the factors while being prompt and decisive.
I believe as male leaders we must appreciate the complexities of a woman’s perspective and let this guide an awakening within us; and we need to encourage female leaders to embrace that side we have naively in the past pushed them to hide. The part of them that makes them great leaders.
I have had a few discussions with a number of ladies I respect a lot, and gotten a bit more perspective on this. Such as although women are fierce advocates for others, when it comes to advocating for themselves, particularly in their career, they are hesitant, even doubtful of their ability to handle leadership roles unless they can tick off each requirement on the list.
Let’s reflect on this for a moment. If all the children who were influenced strongly by their mothers had been taught to jump at every opportunity they had a shot at, would things be different; would there be less people who doubt themselves and make excuses; or would we have a lot more people confident of their capabilities?
I have been thinking about my last 20 years, conflicted about my lack of patience for my female mentees who kept hesitating when it came to stepping into their greatness despite their undeniable brilliance and highly promising experiences. So, yes, I admit this is not a piece about the importance of insisting on more female leaders – but a fact is a fact. We must coach more women into leadership so that we can have more leaders introducing parts of the discussion which have been left dormant for too long.
I will wind up by quoting an African proverb that reads: “When sleeping women wake up, mountains move”.
As I grow in leadership, as I strive to become a better man, as I try to improve my ability to listen more, observe more, learn more, I pray I get the opportunity to start looking at leadership through the lenses…I mean the eyes of a woman.
About The Author
Papa Arkhurst is an e-government expert and an accomplished key communicator with over 12 years of experience in public service. Papa is appraised as a Ted-X Speaker who shares his passion for functional citizen advocacy; and a recipient of the highly coveted award of Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) – the first individual to have achieved this in Ghana with Toastmasters International.
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