A friend emailed me a link to a YouTube video with Mendelssohn Violin Concerto E Minor. He is a great fan of classical music, and he had noticed that we today have not only many women playing in the symphony orchestras, but also quite a few female solo performers.
His point to me was that women could make a career if they want to. What he did not know was that it is only after introducing ‘blind auditions’ that women for real advanced their career in classical music.
In the seventies only 10% of the members of a symphony orchestra were women. After the introduction of blind auditions, this percentage has today increased to an impressive 40-50%.
For those who have not heard of blind auditions, it was introduced to avoid unconscious bias. The performance takes place behind a screen; there is even a carpet on the floor so one cannot hear if it is female or male footsteps when entering.
Musicians are that way solely judged and chosen on merits.
In leadership, we, unfortunately, have not seen the percentage of female leaders increase at a pace even close to the one we saw in the symphony orchestras.
What we have seen, though, is that in countries where they give up waiting for nature to miraculously increase the number of women in leadership positions and introduce quotas on boards, the ability to find skilled female board members do appear.
We keep talking about it, and research clearly shows that it is beneficial for companies to advance women, but progress is just soo slow. What is wrong with us? Since the obvious logic business behavior would be to a.s.a.p. make sure we advance women – something else must be off? Don’t we want women in leadership positions? Do we believe that men are better leaders than women?
Biased – moi?
When I started working more systematically with women in leadership, I also began to study myself and my bias. A small thing like expecting girls to behave politer and be quieter than small boys was just one of my insights.
Could it be that we all are so biased that we, unconsciously think that women are less ambitious? That we, just to be safe, choose a man over a woman for the leadership position since we believe a man is better suited?
We live in a busy number-driven world. The numbers show that having women in leadership positions and on boards are beneficial for the business…But we must face that all this research at best, has very little impact.
If we want to speed-up the numbers of women in leadership, we can implement quotas and performance based blind auditions, OR we can start observing our own and others bias and act upon it. Make it a house rule to reflect and admit when we are biased.
The research is done for you. Now it is your turn to make a commitment to help advance women! ‘Lean back’ and observe your bias and your colleagues bias and then act on it every time it is observed.
What a wonderful world it would be!
Compliments of Beck Global Consulting – a member of the EACCNY