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Remember The New York Times story that said, “Fewer Women Run Big Companies Than Men Named John” that published last year? They labeled it the “Glass Ceiling Index” and well, if you’re like us, it’s hard to forget. But, a positive to come out of it is that it reignited a hunger to ask more questions like, “Why aren’t there more female CEOs?” or “What types of qualities might affect a woman’s career path to CEO?”
Perhaps this discussion has never been more heated than it is now, with Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton as the face of the female leadership movement. You’d have to live in Antarctica, cut off from wi-fi to not know that she’s had challenges with her emails and questions regarding why she made the decisions she did in its aftermath.
No matter what side of the political spectrum you sit on, one thing is for sure: There are stereotypes when it comes to a woman’s decision-making abilities. A woman might be too “indecisive” or too “emotional” in her approach. And probably few women know this better than Clinton herself.
As a site dedicated to propelling women into the careers of their dreams, Podcast Editor Polina Selyutin was thrilled to interview Therese Huston, author of How Women Decide: What’s True, What’s Not, and What Strategies Spark the Best Choices. In her book, Therese shares research that shows women and men are, however, actually equally skilled when it comes to decision making. And, as an expert on the topic of changing the conversation surrounding female decision-makers, Therese points out during our conversation that women actually lead the way and have a strength when it comes to collaboration.
During episode 21 of I Want Her Job: The Podcast, Polina and Therese discuss high-pressure decision making, the gender myth and also some tactical advice that may help you when you’re stuck trying to make your own decisions. And for further reading on the topic, we highly recommend Therese’s Harvard Business Review article that illustrates women don’t always get the fair shake they deserve when it comes to how their decisions are perceived.
TOPICS DISCUSSED IN TODAY’S SHOW:
- Flipping the Lens: Therese notes that her inspiration for writing the book came from a psychologist colleague who pointed out that when one takes a look at leadership books on decision making, they were all about men. “I was shocked about this,” Therese says. “I loved these books. I had several of these books he was talking about, and I hadn’t noticed that the books were almost entirely about men’s issues. But, when I re-read them, I noticed women were hardly mentioned and gender wasn’t mentioned.”
- At the Root: While one would assume that men are the ones driving this stereotype, Therese says she was surprised to find out that it’s women, too. Research shows that women perpetuate this belief that men perform better at making decisions.
- Indecisive Dudes: There is an existing perception in business that men are more decisive. However, Therese says, the research shows that men have just as hard of a time making a decision as women.
- Collaboration is Key: “This is a stereotype that tends to be true, women tend be more collaborative” Therese says. And she points out that although collaboration is actually a good thing, women often get penalized for bringing more people into a decision.
- The Stereotype Threat: Have you ever underperformed because you felt people were expecting it? When an individual expects someone to have a negative opinion of them based on a stereotype like gender or race, it can affect someone’s performance. It can actually make one perform worse! Acknowledging this stereotype and telling yourself that it’s okay to feel anxious can help you get over the consequences of a threat, Therese says.
- Anxiety Rising: When you start to feel anxious about a problem or contributing an idea in a meeting, tell yourself, “It’s normal to feel anxious right now. I feel anxious because this is a big decision.” Reframing the anxiety, Therese says, will help you get through it.
- A Helpful Hint: Here’s a golden tip from Therese: when you’re making a tough decision, instead of thinking you only have two options – yes or no – try giving yourself three different decisions. Therese says research shows options can give us clarity while making a decision. But, be warned, if you give yourself more than seven or eight options, research has shown you start seeing diminishing returns.
- The Balance: “Having gender balance leads to better decisions,” Therese says because, “Men and women tend to act differently when making decisions under stress.”
- Grace Under Fire: Under normal conditions, men and women are likely to make similar decisions when weighing the risks versus the rewards. When the pressure is on however, research shows that men are more likely to go for large risks, while women are more likely to go for smaller wins, Therese says. This shows it’s more important to have both men and women in the room when making crucial business decisions.
- The White Male Effect: White men tend to see the world as a less risky place than other groups of people (like women). Therese says that this leads them to be more fearless while making a decision compared to other groups of the population.
- Past or the Future: Studies show that people tend to think they have more control over the future than the past, Therese says. This has implications for all of us, she says. For example, when it comes to us looking at a spouse who might take someone back who’s cheating, it’s important to realize the person taking that cheater back might think that they have more control over fixing the situation in the future. “When you’ve had a bad decision in the past, you’re more likely to keep making that bad decision,” she says.
- On Her Approach: “I love my work. I am living my dream job,” Therese says. “I look at my writing as teaching.”
- Modeling After Mom: Therese attributes her mom’s work ethic as the inspiration for helping her develop her own. In third grade, she tried to lead her fellow third graders on a strike. Her mom led union workers on strike, so Therese knew what it was. And feeling unhappy about a lunchtime situation, she looked to striking as an opportunity to take a stand. She led kids out to the playground, and well, Therese ended up getting in a lot of trouble from the principal. “I had no idea it would have such repercussions,” Therese says. However, the situation at lunch changed and it had a positive outcome.
- Sage Advice: “In any job, you need to like the grind,” Therese says. In writing you might think of people doing TV interviews or TED talks, but for most of us, “80% of our time is doing some task that’s repetitive or challenging, and you really have to like that part of the job,” she says. “I really like, actually, finding just the right words or the sounds for a concept to be as vivid and visceral as possible. Sometimes you have to try a job to see if you like the grind.”
- Connect: Follow @ThereseHuston on Twitter and on Facebook