CTB was privileged to have the following local business men and women join the Bismarck/Mandan Women’s Leadership Program for a discussion on age and gender in the workplace. The guests were Carleen Shilling, Greg Vetter, Shannon McQuade-Ely and Syd Stewart. All four panelists had a wealth of information to share regarding their experience in the community and how they became leaders in each of their fields.
We discussed as a group what challenges a woman may face vs. a man when she leads a team or company because she may be looked at differently as a leader due to her gender.
The consensus of the group was that most of the time it is not men who have a problem or issues with a woman in a leadership role, but instead it may be other women that have issues with it. Other women at the workplace may indeed feel threatened by a strong woman leader because it may be something they themselves are uncomfortable about and may even be jealous of the woman who leads the company. The perception that a woman cannot be strong willed or directive in her leadership role without being looked at poorly is more a thing of the past as most of the panelists stated they have had great experience with woman in leadership roles in their business and they do not think that it they are looked at poorly for it and instead are very well respected. I think this gave encouragement to the newer leaders in our group that they can be assertive and work hard to obtain a leadership role in their field and not have to worry so much about how they will be perceived by their co-workers.
The second topic that we discussed was the age gap between employees in the workplace. Although most places recruit and thrive to have a mix of not only talents and gender within teams, it can sometimes cause conflicts when not all members are of the same age group (Gen X vs. Gen Y vs. Baby Boomers etc.) The most important thing the panelists had to share was that any team can benefit with team members of different ages and that the bottom line for all employees is that even though you may not understand each others motives or drive, that each person must treat their fellow employees with respect at all times. This can be especially important when you are working in a high stress or high conflict environment because even though you may not share the same values as your team members due to the difference in age, often times you need to work well with everyone on the team in order to reach a common goal. What makes you different may make you great!! Also, having a mix of age groups in the workplace allows for training and succession plans to be put into place so that new team members can take over for older team members as they retire or move on to other positions in their career.
Lastly, we had a discussion on dress attire in the workplace and how that can cause conflict for not only management but for other co-workers as well. If a person is dressed inappropriately for work it not only causes them to look unprofessional but it may also have adverse affects on a business or other team members. What may be appropriate for outside of work may not be appropriate at work and therefore dress codes and management’s ability to ensure their employees adhere to the policy can be hard to deal with at times. Our panelist’s advice was that they themselves have had to learn to dress in a certain manner depending on their jobs or the situation and that making sure you are dressed appropriately at work will only help you succeed it the future. After all, as the saying goes “you are what you wear” so therefore make sure that you are making good choices in your attire for work and are conscious of what you are wearing and how that can impact your job.
I enjoyed the day very much and think our entire group benefited from the great advice of the panelists. Sometimes the best example for a new leader can be to see someone who has succeeded in leadership and let their experience and advice be a learning lesson for those who want to follow in their footsteps.
Heidi Wahl is a 2012 participant of the Bismarck-Mandan Women’s Leadership Program. She is a Mortgage Operations Manager at Starion Financial in Mandan.