05 Mar Humanising The Alpha Culture In Business
Happy International Women’s Day! The day when the media and many celebrities and business people will be vocal by recognising how far women have progressed, but also how much further women have to go for equality.
In 2019, the Alpha Culture is unfortunately still dominant within many companies and whole industries, and the gender pay gap is still significant as reported by last year’s Women In Finance Inquiry led by Nicky Morgan and the Treasury Committee. Their findings showed an inherent bias of white males in senior positions which caused the gender pay gap to widen, and define the alpha male culture that goes hand in hand with that bias and continues to deter women from pursuing high level career in that industry.
In her article with The Guardian last March, Nicky Morgan explained: “Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin Money, described this as a culture of winning at all costs, rather than doing the right thing. Recurring cultural themes of our inquiry include sexual comments from male superiors, stereotyping by the “old boys’ club” and its arcane recruitment practices, the “motherhood penalty”, opaque bonus criteria, and presenteeism, whereby performance is judged by visibility rather than output.”
These traditionally alpha male and misogynistic behaviours fit with the culture of the reporting of #MeToo as women have gained their voice to be respected, believed and acknowledged that these traits and traditions have no place in our working cultures in the 21st century.
In her recent book, Work Like A Woman, Mary Portas makes a valid point – she advocates not about essentially working like a woman but we should all be working like decent human beings. She discusses her experiences earlier in her career when she adapted her personality and ways of working to fit the Alpha Male culture to succeed, but can now look back on its detriment to her personally, professionally and in her relations with her colleagues.
She says: “Alpha culture has killed the soul of so many businesses. Working like a woman is about putting your true values at the heart of your work and connecting with your inner frequency to the fullest. When you sit with people and you can be completely yourself, isn’t that when you’re at your most powerful?”
If we can be ourselves, and not have to adapt to fit in an archaic alpha male culture, we can be our most powerful – influential, confident, adaptable, innovative, and positive.
Interestingly, both Jayne-Anne Gadhia and Mary Portas highlight the same basic requirement – transparency is the key to drive change. By acknowledging the issue, and setting targets within business, this leads to change.
The findings within the Women In Finance Report also fit with the proposals by Mary Portas. By selecting women to lead, join Boards, be the CEO, and take on other senior positions, they are given an influential voice. If only 20% of Board Members are women, their voices need to be that much louder to change the alpha culture. In 2018, there were only 30 women in full-time board executive roles in the FTSE 250, according to Cranfield University. Therefore, the target to increase the number of women at Board level is essential.
Changing the voices at the top filters through a whole company and industry. Nicky Morgan acknowledged the report by Oliver Wyman who “observed that the biggest challenge lies in changing the stereotypes, assumptions and biases about what is required for leadership and success that permeate the culture of financial institutions.” This is why our director Heather Wright advocates the importance of mentors among women in leadership roles, and provides support in mentoring to ensure organisational cultures progress..
Portas stresses the need for that voice in leadership to drive change so every individual can be heard: “If your people don’t have a voice, you’ll never hear the truth.” She is an advocate of the 360 Degree Appraisal Feedback System which Advance Performance has carried out within organisations for several years. The process not only provides quantifiable methods to measure performance, the system also ensures that every individual can voice their own opinion. As Portas says: “And you have to listen to that – it makes you a better person.”
Every individual can only truly have a voice if another person is listening, and by listening and taking on board issues we can take action. As the women who spoke up about Harvey Weinstein, it takes just one person in an influential position to listen to empower change.
‘It’s not about integrating into a not-so-good system. ‘It’s about transforming it and making it better.” – Mary Portas