Thursday, February 28, 2019

Jack or Jill?

A study I read about started this way:
  • Draw a picture of an effective leader

Almost without exception, the picture was of a man.

Ooops: what about the lady leaders? There's certainly no lack of role models in both politics and business, from Angela Merkel -- Chancellor of Germany -- to  Mary Barra -- CEO of General Motors

Another study had people listen in to a business meeting where actors, call them Jack and Jill, among others, were discussing strategy, issues, business details, etc
  • Invariably, Jack was given high marks for leadership, even if the script for Jill was nearly identical 
Indeed, we learn this:

“It didn’t matter whether women spoke up 1) almost never, 2) rarely, 3) sometimes, 4) often, or 5) almost always,” Kyle Emich, a professor at Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware, and one of the authors, wrote in an email.

“Women did not gain status for speaking up, and subsequently were less likely (much less) to be considered leaders.” 

The conclusion of those who study this stuff is that we're very much influenced by stereotypes learned from an very early age. In a word: culture. And, only time and performance will change culture significantly

Ok, so what does this mean? Don't speak up? Don't "lean in"? It's all not valued?
I hope not; there will not be change without engagement, so press on!

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  1. Our son is a Molecular Plant Biologist at Washington State University.
    His "world" is based on a Theology of "Evolutionary Biology"
    This world view says "everything that happens to living organisms happens for a reason. The reason may have been 100,000 years ago or maybe 1,000 years from now.
    The "programming" that gets altered is DNA of course, but these alterations are not what we learned in High School. It is not survival of the fittest, but survival of those who can adapt to the environment the best.
    We (the people in the quote) are adapted to see "leaders" as males in their DNA, from 100's to likely 100's of 1,000's of years ago. Reprogramming that instinctual response will take many generations.
    He also tells us "there is NO such thing as Race." We have different skin color, eye shaps, hair. But we're all the same at the DNA level. If you and I were dropped in the depths of Africa, in 50 to 100 generations our "survivors" would have Black Skin and wirey hair, because without that we would not have survived.
    The ability to move beyond the generic programming to see leaders as "male" will take experience plus generations.
    Same for "racist" views. He would tell us if you and I were walking on the Serengeti, 20,000 years ago anf we saw a stranger coming that didn't look, speak, or act like us, we'd instinctively see that person as a threat. It was backed into our DNA otherwise we'd not be alive to walk that desert.
    Overcoming our "deep programming" takes hard work.


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