Monday, December 3, 2007

Hunter - Gathers & Equality

Okay, I won the gene pool: white and male. Now that that is out of the way here are my experiences coaching and teaching leadership and other professional skills in large corporations:

Most of the managers and executives that I coach and train are male. Classrooms are typically made up of 90% men. As a strong supporter of having a 'balanced' gender workforce I always comment on the male dominated rooms which, is proceeded by and from the men in the room that the industry where they are employed is male dominated due to the skills that are required and that women are not interested in these types of skills. (IT comes to mind.) Following a class, one or two woman, (if there are that many in attendance) approach me asking for suggestions and advice in succeeding in a male dominated environment. Here's where personality and pathology meet. Those of us who are aware enough know that if you are a strong, confident, intelligent, skillful and capable woman you probably (1) emasculate the men and (2) threaten other women. (Hillary Clinton, maybe?)

Women have a very difficult time shedding the 'gatherer' model while the men are out there hunting and clearing brush. Flat out, men are threatened by you strong, independent and capable women of the world. They want you smart but not too smart. What's a poor girl to do? If, you've been around a while and have survived thus far in the male corporate work world than you know that strategy is everything. Personality preferences has a lot do it with it. 'Women should be soft and men tough.' There is a very fine line of 'playing' the woman to assure that you not frighten the men in your office and at the same time take charge and command the troops. (If you have your hands on the helm make sure that you let the 'other' captain steer now and then.) Keep the ship on course and ask for navigational advice and suggestions from the male dominated crew. Is it fair, is it just? No but life is not fair. This is an unfortunate universal policy. If you eat poultry is it fair to the chicken? No, but you still eat it. I am not proposing that women should have to continue to work just as hard as men and get paid less for their efforts.

Until men have a major mental and spiritual shift all the Title VII laws in the world will not change the fact that most men (at two thirds) will be threatened by your abilities. Those of us men who are either blessed enough have to have been born with the equality gene or just know that it's not about the gender but about getting the job are a step ahead of the majority. But we have a long way to go.
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