THE BLOG
07/12/2010 03:07 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Female Leadership: How to Start a Revolution Without Using Force

If women aren't accepted into the "good ole boys club" at work, should they demand inclusion or create a better, more attractive club?

I'm delighted to share the following story written by organizational psychologist and president of Germane Consulting, Dr. Anne Perschel. Not only has Dr. Perschel consulted with organizations and coached leaders to achieve promotions in many major corporations, her articles have appeared in many publications including Global Business an Organizational Excellence, Washington Post "On Leadership" and the Boston Herald.

Get your sunglasses, grab your beach blanket and imagine the following scene of children playing in the sand:

Seven boys, ages five to eight, are engineering an intricate series of dams and rivers by the water's edge. They even build a small hot tub and are enjoying their time in this mini spa when along come the girls -- first one, then two. As the third attempts to find a seat in the tub, two boys protest. "No girls allowed."

The girls argue but eventually move along. Minutes later the mothers arrive and demand equal rights for the girls. The boys protest, but the mothers stand guard as the girls are begrudgingly allowed in the tub.

Clearly everyone is having less fun. As soon as the guards leave, the chanting begins anew, "No girls allowed."

The scene repeats several times. Eventually, the mothers become distracted and the girls grow tired of trying.

Then one lone girl starts to dig a short distance from the boys. She is far enough to maintain respect for the rule of separation but close enough for the engineers and construction workers to see her. Other girls join in. They build elaborate scenes creatively using beach flora, fauna and debris to make bridges, houses, trees and people.

A curious boy inches his digging project closer to girls' scene. Within minutes he connects his trench to their landscape. Other boys take note and edge closer. They build connecting roads as well. Soon the groups' combined engineering and creative talents result in a complex and ingenious landscape filled with people, cars, pets, trenches, dams and a bigger coed hot tub.

Now please suit up for a visit to my client with whom I share this story. Ms. Julie, the most senior woman in the organization, has been complaining, whining even, that she does not get invited to important all-male networking events. She is a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued. I share the beach story with her then ask if she is going to wait for some adult to demand an invitation on Ms. Julie's behalf. Or like the girls on the beach, could she construct her own solution?

Ms Julie throws her own tailgating party. She invites the men and the women. The food is imaginative and delicious but she is sure to include the more traditional grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and sweet smelling sausages. Company parties are different now. The rule of "No girls allowed" has been rescinded.

If you can't make your leaders acknowledge your efforts and promote you the same as men, you can complain about it or go do something much more fun.

In the last company I worked for, I kept suggesting to the senior leaders we use teams to find solutions to perennial problems that were hindering our progress. My idea fell on deaf ears. So I found a champion in the Manager of Quality. Together, we created a cross-functional improvement team and began to tackle some longstanding issues in innovative ways. Eventually, other departments began asking what we were doing. Within a year, using cross-functional teams for product development as well as problem solving became part of the culture. I was given both a promotion and funds for a learning center.

Instead of trying to force issues or crack the glass ceilings, many women are taking their assets and creating their own sandboxes. The National Association of Women-Owned Businesses (NAWBO) reports that in 2006, women-owned firms (50 percent or more) accounted for 40 percent of all privately held firms. Additionally, 3 percent of all women-owned firms had revenues of $1 million or more compared with 6 percent of men-owned firms. I have read reports that these numbers have grown every year.

My vision is that in the new sandboxes, men and women play well together, honoring each other's strengths and gifts. Maybe it is time we quit trying to break down the old structures. Instead, let's create our own jobs and companies to be so attractive that all the most competent people will want to play with us.

I still honor those who choose to continue the noble fight. And I applaud the innovators who are creating a revolution using the power of attraction instead of force.

Marcia Reynolds, PsyD is a leadership coach and sought-after speaker. Her bestselling book, Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction has been quoted in Psychology Today, ForbesWoman, The Daily Beast, Metro News Canada, and BNet. She is also the author of Outsmart Your Brain and teaches classes worldwide on emotional intelligence and leadership. You can read more about Dr. Reynolds at www.WanderWomanBook.com.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.