The Power of Perception with Dr. Shawn Andrews

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The Hack = how to make progress on the gender divide in leadership

The Content = my thoughts and my takeaways from conversation with Dr. Shawn Andrews + resource guide to our conversation podcast and video

I Did Get Uncomfortable (but not about what you think)

In writing this article I hope to be open about the discomfort I personally experienced about a major issue.

And no.

You might guess based on the title of this article that the topic of gender leadership imbalances would be making me uncomfortable.

I mean, I get it. I am a guy and everyone knows guys are in more leadership positions. Any talk about “gender imbalances” implies that having more men in power is harmful in some way. So you might think that I would feel uncomfortable talking about gender imbalances.

Yet I didn’t in my gut of guts for one simple reason: I wasn’t immediately impacted or personally affected by gender imbalances.

That’s the blunt truth.

I know it feels politically correct to say that I care deeply in my gut about gender imbalances, but quite frankly, I don’t in my gut-of-guts.

I do hope you’ll respect my transparency here.

I mean, I work for myself. I’m not involved on any corporate teams. Any handling of gender leadership imbalances just doesn’t effect me directly.

Stunning Gender Statistics

However, I was stunned by the vast discrepancy in gender imbalances. On Dr. Andrew’s blog and according to her research, she sees: 

  • 474 CEO’s on Fortune 500 companies are male
  • Women now represent 57% of the labor force in the U.S the number of women at the helm is 5%

Here’s What Caused Me Discomfort

The issue I felt uncomfortable with is what expert Shawn Andrews calls informal networking. The topic of informal networking arose when I asked Shawn “What are the top 3 causes of gender leadership imbalances?”.

Shawn’s #1 reason of gender leadership imbalance was bias. I had expected bias and was well aware of the concept.

Bias is when you see the world a certain way. I had become familiar with bias years ago when Harvard came out with studies showing how everyone was biased.

Yet I felt totally comfortable with bias. I knew I had it, but I didn’t really care. I mean I was a little perturbed that I was biased, but so was everyone else. Besides, bias evolved in humans for a reason because bias allows people to sort the massive amounts of information and make sense of the world.

The negative by-product of bias is discrimination, racism, sexism, and so forth but overall, bias is a survival advantage.

And truthfully, since I can’t really change my bias easily, I didn’t really care. Bias was something that existed and just is a part of life. Because it didn’t immediately affect me, I simply wasn’t moved in my gut.

So in all honesty I was not deeply moved to my core when Shawn said bias was the #1 reason for gender leadership imbalance.

However, I did care about Shawn’s #2 reason.

Youtube Video of Conversation (starts at Informal Networks part)

As stated above, Shawn’s #2 reason was called informal networks.

And boy, oh boy, did this make me uncomfortable initially.

Informal networks are basically guys at work hanging out at the bar and talking casually about work. Oftentimes informal casual conversations happen on the golf course too.

And I didn’t realize this, but lack of access to informal networks is actually a major reason why there is a gender leadership imbalance.

So here’s why I felt uncomfortable:

I have done this!

There’s no doubt in my mind that I simply felt more comfortable with my guy friends and didn’t invite the women around.

I’ll admit, I am biased. Part of my bias was assuming that the women didn’t want to be invited, but I am realizing this is mistaken right now.

Why Men Should Take Responsibility (and make more money)

So in any question in the leadership gender divide or really any conversation involving gender equality there will be people who disagree or are skeptical.

Why? Why gendership equality?

Is there any in the first place?

Let’s examine a basic example of leader gender equality and show how it relates to profits.

Dr.Shawn Andrews notes that about 21% of Boards in Fortune 500 Companies are female.

I think we will all agree that this is a pretty neutral fact.

Yet when Boards get change their composition to be 50% female, their profits increase.

So why should companies change their composition of employees?

You could say out of a sense of fairness, justice. Those are fine answers.

But let’s just say profits.

It’s good for the bottom line.

From the Peterson Institute for International Economics: The groups analyzed results from 21,980 global, publicly traded companies, in 91 countries from various industries and sectors and showed that having at least 30% of women in leadership positions, or the “C-suite,” adds 6% to net profit margin.

Why Women In Leadership Is Profitable

In minute 32 Shawn is asked if women in leadership is profitable.

She says “There is mounds of data showing that the more diverse the organization, the better return there is in many ways such as employee engagement, profitability, revenue, loyalty, etc

From a gender perspective “When companies have more females on the board of directors, they clearly outshine the ones with all male boards.”

And I asked: “How does that work out in practice?”

Shawn replies “If you have a group of like minded people, it won’t dawn on anyone to think outside the box. Anytime you have people with diverse perspectives and insights, that will help you realize there’s a better approach. Women and men think differently. We are not only hardwired differently, but socialized differently.

Let’s take problem solving: men tend to be convergent like a laser. They address it head on and take care of it quickly. Women on the other hand scan the environment like radars. Because we have differences in how we solve problems and every aspect of business, etc, and these differences ultimately lead to more profitability.”

Connect with Shawn:

If you want to connect with Shawn, head over to her website at

I have read sections of her new book and please support her new book by checking it out on Amazon!


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