Play Like Girls!

Organizational leadership Respect Teamwork


Key Point: Play like a girl. Play like a man. Really, what’s the difference? My current executive team is compiled entirely of women. My last executive team was all men. Both teams are excellent and I would work with each of them again, in any combination. The ideal is to have gender mix, because greater diversity promotes more angles of thinking and potential innovation. While some gender differences are obviously a matter of biological fact, in terms of leadership excellence we are gender independent. It’s all about mindset and respect.

The “play like girls” cartoon circulating the Sochi Winter Olympics after the Canadian women’s hockey team won their gold medal amused me. In this case, after the Canadian women’s hockey team’s tenacious and spectacular comeback to win the 2014 Sochi gold, the cartoon shows Canada’s men’s coach imploring his boys to play the same way. (You likely now know that the Canadian men did win a gold medal too). And because there is still too much ignorance about the “inferiority” of women in sports and all aspects of work/ life, the message in the cartoon is important for the time being. Women flat out compete with every bit of success, grit, confidence, fear, and failure as men. We essentially win and lose the same way.

Yet, according to the highly respected international organization, Catalyst, recent research shows negative disparity between males and females at the median and on an “apple to apple” comparison in many categories. Gender bias is improving, but we still have a long ways to go in 2014. 

Character Moves:

1. Become a vocalist for diversity AND inclusion. Regardless of gender, it is important for all leadership to understand that the best teams have common values (like the Character Triangle), but total diversity on every possible combination of gender, ethnicity, race, etc.

2. Help get across to all, that having a gender-balanced workforce is good for everyone: Gender-balanced teams are often more fun to work in, produce more innovative solutions, and create opportunities for everyone to grow.

3. If you are a male, advocate openly for gender diversity, ensure that your direct reports have clear accountability for driving diversity initiatives, and work to make diversity/inclusion “mainstream” throughout your workplace.

4. Watch Doug Conant, retired President & CEO of Campbell Soup Company, describe the key piece of advice he gave to Denise Morrison, Campbell’s current CEO, earlier in her career.

 Girls and boys in The Triangle,