If you have been following my movements (oo er!) lately – you will know that I have been travelling around the UK and Europe hosting and delivering an event called Grace the Stage. As you read this (probably – certainly when it goes out) I will be in Dublin delivering this very event.
This is an event that is designed to attract females who want to be speakers – or better speakers. And it has caused a bit of controversy. Whilst there is clearly a market appeal for this event – we get between 120 and 200 women attending this free one day course – there are also some women who are strongly against the concept.
We have had comments that the event is ‘patronising’ and that we don’t need a separate event for women. But this comes from those women who clearly don’t need this event. The 10% of women who are confident enough to already be speaking from stage; those who do not see why anyone else should not be as confident as they are.
But the data says something different. I have heard many stories and it is backed up by research done by McKinsey, that men and women just approach the business of business differently. It’s a bit like when applying for a job. A recent internal report from Hewlett Packard stated; – “ Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.”
Anecdotally, I have heard this many many times over. The stated reason in a survey carried out by Tara Mohr – an American coach – who surveyed 1000 people and asked why they did NOT apply for a job they wanted, was interesting. No-one (practically no-one) said they couldn’t do the job. What they said was – I didn’t think they would consider my application and I didn’t want to waste my time.
The women also said they didn’t want to fail – the men didn’t say that. And the other common theme for the women was that they were playing by the rules. The rules seem much more important to women. The men weren’t too bothered about the rules. Perhaps explaining why more men break the law than women?
So, this fear of failure and the sticking by the rules were common themes and are absolutely factors in why women might not apply for a job they want, or speak up at a meeting, or go networking in a mixed environment. Why are there so many women only networking events? Perhaps because they don’t know the ‘rules’ of networking. Perhaps because all the men seem super successful and they fear being seen as a failure?
So for the women who feel they don’t need a women only speaking event – I’m with you. I felt the same. However, what I have found is that there are many women who feel much more comfortable in a female only environment, at least as a starting point. And if that is the case – well you should always listen to what your market needs.
I do believe though that it is the combination of both energies, the male and the female, the yin and the yang – which makes things work at an optimum level. Companies who have the most diverse boards, also have the most success, as has been shown many times over.
Because generally (not always) men are good at driving stuff, initiating, creating tension – on a positive or negative way. And women are good at looking after stuff, taking care of it, nurturing people. As I said – big generalisation – of which you can find many opposite examples, but as a human race – we are genetically programmed to complement each other.
Men are mostly physically stronger, women have better empathy and understanding. Men drive things up, and women look after stuff (for the next 9 months!! And ever after!).
So in an ideal world – you would have stuff for everyone. You would have courses for women who prefer that, and mixed courses for those who like it that way. What should be equal is the opportunity. What that doesn’t mean is that everything needs to be exactly the same for everyone. That’s not only boring but doesn’t take into account that people are different. If all toilets were only urinals – half the population wouldn’t be happy.
Things don’t have to be and shouldn’t be the same for all genders. But the opportunity should be there for all. We hold events that are mixed and we hold events that are female only. We do that to respond to what people want – not to tell them what they want, or what they should want. Does that make sense?
What would be better is if everyone in the world was less judgemental about others. And if we entered everything with a spirit of collaboration not combat. The world needs yin and yang – it doesn’t work without it. That doesn’t mean that sometimes things can’t be more Yin or more Yang. As long as at some point it all comes together.
And as far as these events go – and this applies to anything you might be thinking about trying – it is better to try and fail – than to fail to try. At least if you try you win. Because it will either work, or you will learn. Either way that’s a win, in my book!
If you’d like to come along to the next Grace The Stage event – (and men ARE allowed by the way – you just have to be a feminist!!) – then keep an eye on my Facebook page for more details.