EMPOWERING WOMEN LEADERS TO BE THEIR AUTHENTIC SELVES
by Kevin Phelps, City Manager, City of Glendale
he tables were turned when I was a panelist at the 2019 Arizona Women Leading Government conference. The session was titled “What We Can Teach Men,” and attendees weren’t there for my thoughts about how to break the “glass ceiling” preventing them from reaching the top positions. The all-male panel was there to ask questions, listen and learn. It was not surprising attendees unanimously said they want a safe environment where they can contribute and grow. It was surprising how different their experiences have been with men in the workplace. I was also struck by how strongly they feel about any pressure to follow stereotypes regarding what leadership style makes the best choice to successfully lead a
FALL 2019 • THE EDUCATION EDITION
team. They don’t want to have to “act more male” to get ahead and aren’t even sure what that means. They stressed wanting to be recognized as competent and appreciated for being their authentic selves. I couldn’t agree more that different leadership approaches bring strength to an organization. I’d like to think that most people do see men and women as equally capable when it comes to some of the key qualities and behaviors essential to be leaders in politics and business. Yet women still make up a very small share of top leadership jobs in both realms. This year, I achieved a more gender-balanced team in the city manager’s office when I appointed Vicki Rios to be one of Glendale’s two assistant city managers. It’s a senior leadership
position previously held by a man. Vicki overwhelmingly earned her promotion — but for me, there’s more than that. When I became city manager four years ago, I looked around and saw mostly white, male leaders who looked like me. I made inclusion and diversity at the executive management level a goal and put deliberate strategies in place. What I really want is a variety of perspectives and that includes gender, ethnicity and age. Since then, there have been several women who have earned promotions as leaders, including our director of field operations and director of community services. When we respectfully come together, we learn so much from each other. Our experiences help shape the way we see the world. Through those experiences, women bring a certain perspective, and by sharing that perspective, it can help galvanize a team with making good decisions. We need to continue to assess the needs of what future leaders look like and help them be their authentic selves — not taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach. I’m excited to get to the point in our culture when we hire a key person in leadership and the gender, ethnicity or age of that leader goes unnoticed.
When I became city manager four years ago, I looked around and saw mostly white, male leaders who looked like me. I made inclusion and diversity at the executive management level a goal and put deliberate strategies in place.
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