It’s not just about gender equality anymore. It reaches beyond that into mindsets, creating a culture of collaboration and mastering leadership languages. Those were the main discussions brought up by a panel of speakers at VMwomen 2015.

VMwomen 2015 was recently held as part of VMworld 2015 in San Francisco.

Irrespective of gender background, there needs to be equal opportunity for people to demonstrate their capabilities, VMware global field chief technology officer, Paul Strong, said.

“The job of a leader is to pick up the best the crop irrespective of their gender. Leaders should have a criteria list and check them off against each individual instead of letting gender issues influence their mindset,” he indicated.

Strong claimed men and women should work together to create a culture of collaboration that transforms the workplace as well as increases revenue and corporate growth.

However, when talking about leadership model differences between men and women, Stanford University Clayman Institute for gender research executive director, Lori Mackenzie, said women tend to have more barriers to overcome.

“It’s the female nature to absorb criticism more than men. They should adopt a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset that everything they do can be worked on. That’s a natural progression towards leadership,” she said.

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Aetna IT infrastructure and development services vice-president, Renee Zaugg, mentioned this conversation should be picked up on early – preferably in schools when the kids are between eight and 10 years of age.

“They’re not hearing this message early enough. And when they enter the workforce, they don’t have a clue how to work on some of these challenges. There’s a lot to do very early in the pipeline in creating confidence in girls on what they’re capable of.

“We, as leaders, need to also work on the stereotype that younger women don’t put themselves out there for leadership roles because they want to manage both their careers and their families,” she said.

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Capgemini global partner executive group vice-president, Sheryl Chamberlain, said the messaging of feminism should be about the equal balance of men and women in a workforce.

“We want fairness, the right talent and the right results. There has been a stigmatism around the word ‘feminism’, but that has evolved over time. It’s about how we can empower ourselves to be more inclusive now.”

Zaugg also said people should understand bias around issues like pregnancy. As an example, she said leaders should not avoid giving responsibilities to expectant women. Instead, she suggested they offer them the responsibility and let them make the decision if they are able to handle the workload.

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“It’s very subtle and hard to pick out sometimes but when you’re making decisions, you have to make it factual and keep the communal aspect out of it,” Mackenzie claimed.

Strong also spoke about proactively searching for women talent in an industry that is lacking skilled workers. “You can’t just wait till you have a qualified talent, you need to go out and look for it. Women are just as equal on a playing field as men.”

“We should learn from this and pay it forward so others pick up on these skills. It’s not just women, it’s men too that should create a community that is inclusive,” Chamberlain added.