Residents of Austin, Texas recently elected several women to the city council. For the first time in the history of the city, the Council now has a female majority–seven women and four men. Huzzah! Progress! But, not so fast. The change was apparently so overwhelming, the city manager decided to bring in a trainer to teach city employees how to deal with emotionally driven women in the workplace. A sampling of his topics:

  • Women ask too many questions.
  • Women don’t come to meetings prepared.
  • Women don’t want to deal/can’t deal with numbers.
  • And finally, women are taking over.

This expert’s main resource, other than his experience as city manager in a female-majority council in Florida? His 11-year-old daughter. Apparently, she is the model upon which all females in city government are based.

All this is absurd to the point of comedy, yes. But events like these—and we’re seeing more of them now—also spark outrage. We are seeing the underbelly – the shadow of the patriarchal system that has defined leadership up till now – it brings to light what is outdated, antiquated and backwards. The good news is that this embarrassing faux pas will result in progress.

When you think of any significant movement that changed the course of history- the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and recently the passing of laws permitting same-sex marriage, the shifts came about through a change in the conversation, a raising of consciousness, a change in people’s hearts and minds. Then comes the upswell, the moral outrage–people saying, “its morally wrong,” is what creates the urgency to change.

And it starts with every one of us. Behavioral change only happens when we evolve beliefs. When we continually discard limiting beliefs about ourselves and others, beliefs that insist that what is different from what we’re familiar with is wrong or bad, we evolve past our personality-identified self to our humanity—our whole selves— the truth of who we are.

Once, not so very long ago, an event like this wouldn’t have made news. But now gender diversity and partnership in all areas— in commerce, politics, education—have become 21st century aspirations and necessities. The skill set for leadership is changing, has changed. Partnership between men and women in leadership in business is emerging, even in these failures and embarrassments. Feminine “feeling” strengths like inclusiveness, empathy, humility, relatedness, vulnerability, flexibility, compassion, and collaboration are increasingly in demand in this connected, global society and matrixed organizations. In fact, studies show those leadership strengths are more valued in today’s workplace than the traditionally masculine leadership skills of aggressiveness, decisiveness, and expediency.