I’ve been so impressed and so moved by the recent Always #Like a Girl campaign. The point is a simple one: Don’t use the phrase “like a girl” as an insult. Girls run, throw, play and kick just as well as boys. To demean or diminish an adolescent girl, at a time when she is especially vulnerable about herself and her self-image, is at best annoying and at worst bullying.
Well, guess what? Things don’t change when the girls and boys are all grown up and working in corporate America. An underlying, often unconscious sentiment that “like a girl” is not good enough to lead…that “like a girl” means too emotional, too personal, too vulnerable still pervades the fabric of many corporations, from mom and pop operations to multi-national organizations. Certainly, all too many men consciously or unconsciously feel that way. And sadder still, many women themselves internalize a “second best” attitude about their corporate roles.
Yes, things are changing. As evidence mounts for the profit and growth link to diversity, more organizations are actively promoting women. As more women see their female colleagues defy the glass ceiling, they are asking “Why not me?” As more CEOs make it clear that managers at all levels will be measured by the inroads they make in diversity, increasing numbers are finding and developing their female talent.
I am very proud of the role WOMEN Unlimited, Inc. is playing in that progress and has played for almost 21 years. We’ve known the power of diversity for a long time. We’ve known where the hang ups and the holdups are. We’ve known that it’s not just corporate culture and the “old boy network”, it’s also the women themselves who need to grasp the importance, their importance to corporate profitability and shareholder results.
That’s why we take the multi-faceted approach we do:
- We carefully screen our potential corporate partners to ensure they are either already committed to diversity or are willing to make the changes that will get them there.
- Our programs are for women only. In this safe, non-threatening environment participants can face and debunk the attitudes and behaviors that may be standing in their way. They can transform “like a girl” in their minds and actions from a negative, to the powerful statement it ought to be.
- Although our programs are for women, our reach is to both men and women. We actively engage male panelists, male mentors and our participants’ male managers, a strategy vital to both the men and the women. The women gain insights on how to work with male colleagues at all levels. Male managers develop an understanding of how women experience organizations, and become more effective at managing their female staff and at providing needed support, guidance and feedback. In this way, the workplace becomes the real classroom, the real laboratory for individual and cultural change.
- We encourage our participants to keep learning, growing and developing. The program is only the beginning. As a result, we link our graduates with a powerful alumnae network, currently over 10,000 strong, which they can use as they see fit to air questions, seek advice, and share insights.
So once again kudos to the sponsors of Always #Like a Girl and their role in getting the wheels of change started early. I think of them as an advance team. Hopefully, their initiative will help more girls and boys grow up to be the powerful, actualized, gender-blind adults our society and our corporations will need in the years ahead.
Dr. Rosina L. Racioppi
President & CEO
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.