Male Corporate Culture


30th April 2013

Male Corporate Culture –the challenge of keeping women in the talent pipeline. 

Intuitively a lot of us will agree with findings from a recent survey of 600 Directors (see  25th April 2013) which claim that the single biggest barrier to women reaching the top of organisations is “male corporate culture”. The claim is that male corporate culture is key to why so many talented women reduce the time they are willing to stay and develop their careers with their employers.  

What is really striking is that the value women can bring to leadership positions in organisations is generally accepted. There is recognition too of the widespread purchasing and economic power which women represent. Many organisations have done a lot to level the playing field when it comes to policies and procedures. HR professionals everywhere are quick to identify and address behaviour and language that is seen as discriminatory or inappropriate. Yet, the pace of change for many is too slow and the challenge of keeping women in the talent pipeline for those important senior positions remains tough. 

  • But what exactly is male corporate culture?
  • How do we define it?
  • How can we talk about it in a way that is constructive and does not place blame or create defensiveness? 

The difficulty when talking about any culture is that sooner or later there is a need to address the deeply held beliefs and assumptions that underpin and give life to it. Like the roots of a tree, these assumptions, beliefs and former experiences are often buried. They provide nourishment and stability but are not visible or immediately accessible. We intuitively know they are there. They form the unconscious bias that the survey refers to. (23% of female respondents identified this bias as a barrier to progression). If we are going to tackle the presence and impact of male corporate culture we need to be able to access its roots and bring more into awareness how it gets upheld and perpetuated by men and women.

How we can help with Gender Balance   

In order to allow men and women in organisations to discuss and confront what is in their organisational culture and examine it through the lens of gender, we have been researching ways of accessing these beliefs. We have identified a set of what we call masculine and feminine “values” described in the language of organisational behaviour. They are all described from the perspective of the potential value they can bring. Using everyday management situations – assessing performance, giving feedback, handling conflict, running a meeting – the model allows individuals to see how their beliefs and assumptions create experiences and outcomes that may not be gender balanced. Over time and through repetition these unintended outcomes become the unconscious bias that is a characteristic of all cultures.

Please get in touch if you are interested in addressing Gender Balance in your organisation

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