Years ago, on a sunny fall day, I sat in my office in Cambridge, Mass., my back to the wall-sized window overlooking the Charles River. I ignored this historic and picturesque view to stare intently at resumes on my monitor. Soon my boss would come in with one of the most common questions asked in retained search firms and recruiting environments around the world: “Where are the candidates?!”
I was intent on delivering results, so I blew off my run along the river, focused and found the candidate. You’ve likely been in that same high-pressure position, searching for a candidate or a solution to a pressing business problem, and I bet you found it, too.
Today, I see the importance of a little balance and reflection, but earlier in my career, I prioritized speed and horsepower over quiet introspection. At times, I still favor the power of measurable achievement over the harder-to-quantify strength that slowly comes from pensive reflection.
Perhaps we can agree that there are different forms of strength. Perhaps we need some of each to be truly powerful. And maybe in order to achieve gender balance, we need to realize there are gender-based differences in accessing these strengths.
Defining Strength in New Ways
If you consider the gender-based wage gap, in which women make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, it pretty much says that historically, Corporate America has apparently regarded males as the stronger gender. But I know too many powerful women to fall for that. Let’s consider defining strength in three ways: longevity, vitality and leadership.
Did you know that in the current list of all U.S.-based supercentenarians (people at or above the age of 110), we have a George, Bernie and Richard; the other 25 are all women? Science has proved that women live longer, perhaps because they are physiologically better able to withstand life’s challenges.
On a personal level, I was raised by a strong, principled woman. In addition to being the backbone of our family, she rose to leadership positions in her career and took on extra coursework and training to powerfully advocate for marginalized people. I live my life with the reassurance that my mom has my back no matter what. She draws her strength from a seemingly bottomless well, perhaps aided by a biological predisposition to increased health, well-being and vitality. Whatever the reason, there’s no stopping her.
Meanwhile, Back in Corporate America
With longevity and vitality on their side, certainly women would be well-represented in the Fortune 500 executive suite, right? Sadly, the statistics on women in leadership are an incontrovertible indication of institutionalized gender bias. According to this Fortune article, “One in four Americans believes humans will be able to time-travel before half of Fortune 500 companies are led by women.” Women hold only 4% of the CEO positions in the Fortune 500, even though women outperform men on nearly all emotional intelligence measures required for effective leadership. We have made some gains in achieving gender balance, but we have far to go.
As a recruiter, I work to help hiring managers see the strengths represented in diverse slates of candidates. The path to diversity and inclusion requires diligence and perseverance. If you hit a roadblock while exhausting all traditional recruiting strategies and tactics, maybe you’ll find inspiration by stepping away from your desk and taking a well-timed run along the river or through the woods.