I am pretty sure this post is not a good idea.
I am not an expert on discrimination, but if this backfires on me I will be happy to have spoken about values most good managers share. And if it really backfires my empathy for discrimination will only be strengthened.
As a Caucasian, middle-aged, (reasonably) normal, (somewhat) fit, beer drinking, football watching, male in the technology sector; I am not sure I have ever been discriminated against. At least not in a way I noticed.
But this week I was caught off guard while having an engaging, mentoring chat with one of the brightest and most competent female MDs of a local digital agency. I learnt about the sensation caused by the results you get when you Google ‘CEO’ and in images all you see is men until the first female you see …. is Barbie! #BarbieCEO
So I had a look. It is of course flooded with men and only the ‘female’ listing for the GM CEO Mary Barra pipped Barbie at the post. Is this simply great SEO by Mattel? I can’t be sure, but I wanted to share what was discussed with this gun MD of our local digital agency (with her permission of course), in the hope it might encourage other potential leaders who feel discriminated against to take the next step. The rest of us need you to!
Because leading is about going where others aren’t. Into new markets, into new territories, so why not into new boardrooms and industries? I hope some of the following provides some encouragement to others.
1. You don’t need permission
I don’t think authentic leaders should care if there are no others of their age, race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc in their ranks. The only person who needs to believe you can do it is YOU. If you feel capable then do the role in the way you want to do it, and to the utmost of your ability.
2. The lack of others like you tells you there may be barriers
Find out what they are and work out how you are going to get over, under or around them. Perhaps the best option is simply ignoring them.
3. Leaders lead from the front
To be that next female CEO that turns up in the search result, bring to bear the special talents that your gender (or other diversity) brings to the role. It will be your greatest advantage. Whatever you do do not try to be the same as everyone else.
4. Be the contrast
Given the current rate of change challenging companies our leadership needs to be diverse to survive. By knowing yourself and being true to yourself, you will shape the work place, community and colleagues around you that will create the world you believe in. And please do it mindful of respecting the majority’s differences. (how ironic!)
5. Finally, leading is as leading does
Don’t ask what you need to DO to get the leadership role you want. Simply ACT in the way you think a leader should act, and demonstrate you are ready to fill the bigger shoes. Those bigger shoes will let you take bigger strides and have a bigger impact in the world you have chosen to step into.
If you have passion, focus, energy and are clear about what you stand for, the right people and opportunities will align and help you create the leadership opportunities for you to be the change you want to see. So to whoever you are, and whatever your diversity, bring it!
Please share with anyone you know who has pushed through senseless discrimination.
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