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GenderStrategy: Career advancement shouldn't be a catfight

Women at work

April 04, 2012|By Lisa Kawata

Says Kittleman, “Men were saying women needed more confidence.”

In her experience, this is because “men tend to boast and overestimate their abilities. Women tend to hedge. I was like that at first,  but I learned,” she says. However, it took heading up the Transportation Department of state government to master the knowledge.

“We don’t trust in our abilities,” says Athen. “Women hit that glass ceiling and won’t go further, so they just stay doing a great job with what they have. But a guy at the same level?”

Kittleman finishes Athen’s thought: “He’s continually lobbying.”

The book is neither a feminist manifesto nor a gripe-fest about men.

Athen calls the book’s approach constructive. “We don’t blame them,” she says, referring to men.
However, not all women that Kittleman and Athen encounter believe that the issue boils down to communication. Some believe men are just wrong or no problem exists, especially if they are early in their careers.

“They’re more likely to face discrimination later in their careers,” says Kittleman.

That’s why training is so critical, especially for women, they believe. However, not all training is created equal.

According to an article published in The Washington Post in 2008, 75 percent of diversity training is hurtful, especially when it’s mandatory. The article “Most Diversity Training Ineffective, Study Finds,” by Shankar Vedantam, cites the findings of University of Arizona sociologist Alexandra Kalev, who researched the impact of mandatory diversity training. In 2008, U.S. businesses spent between $200 million and $300 million a year on diversity training. Forced by managers, the training creates a backlash, the researcher found.

Spreading the word

The women of GenderStrategy have  delivered their message to nonprofits, students in Johns Hopkins’ Carey Business School, members of the Society for Marketing Professionals, the Chancellor’s Office of the University of Maryland and other organizations. Typically, the U.S. Air Force Academy gives the book to each new class of cadets. All three women have lectured and conducted trainings and seminars on the content of the book. However, they’re re-evaluating that approach.

“It’s intensive to do it well,” says Kittleman, who is also a certified leadership coach through a program at Georgetown University. She and Athen have been selected into the ranks of “Maryland’s Top 100 Women” by The Daily Record. Athen has received the honor three times, moving her into the award’s Circle of Excellence. Winners are selected based on professional accomplishment, community involvement and a commitment to mentoring, and are chosen by an independent panel of business leaders and former winners.

“We’re now concentrating on selling the book and speaking to sell the books. The content stands alone,” says Kittleman.

The trio is also in discussion about writing another book with a different business scenario, perhaps even with a generation strategy premise.

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