Women in Charge: end-table edition
Scene: On the end of a long table sat a five-some (including myself and Emily Cavalier who compiled her own musings). Another six folks sat on the other end, our conversations decidedly separate due to the ambient noise and laws of group dynamics. It’s not that we’re unfriendly, it’s that they were aurally very far away.
The following hodgepodge are my reactions and thoughts that, had I been taking notes, might have been captured more accurately. Sorry.
Our moderator asked two questions: Why aren’t more women in charge? and What do you think is holding women back? These are basically the same question, and so the answers are closely coupled.
Our thoughts, to wit:
- The Choice: making children interferes with career ambitions. Men do not share this existential concern—their physicality doesn’t change to the same extent during his babies gestation period. It’s far less disruptive to current work paradigms.
- Timing: a female professional’s career-defining years, when compared to a males, overlap with prime baby-making time. This alone can skew the availability of female candidates for leadership-track roles.
- Further inquiry: Assuming gender equality, how does a normal distribution of women taking reproductive sabbaticals affect leadership opportunities compared to the current statistics?
- Good-ol’ gender bias: Assertive women are not as well liked as assertive men. There are statistics to back this up. Correllary: women aren’t well liked for leadership roles, because leaders are traditionally thought of as assertive.
- Confidence vs. Assertiveness: These two concepts are often conflated. I’m overgeneralizing here, but assertiveness is a good stand-in for confidence, and since assertive women aren’t as well liked as assertive males, confidence (and competance) might be harder to demonstrate for females. (Again, I’m generalizing.)
- Infiltrating “boys’ clubs” has proven challenging for all involved—even for the more progressive members of each gender. It requires a culture shift and people, by and large, resist change.
- Approach: There are measurable differences in how men and women tend to lead, but, on the whole, they have similar efficacy. The approach to leadership is different—this can be jarring.
- Tradition: Certain occupations have a gender bias, particularly for industries focused on care. These roles aren’t typical to the C-suite with respect to traditional corporate structures and skill requirements.
Ultimately, after this conversation, I’m hopeful that we can indentify leaders and thinkers without a gender epithet. It will take time; but, if our Essay Club discussion was any indication, we’re on to a good start.