Monday, March 19, 2018

Reality Strikes Back Against Gender Neutering

For reasons that puzzle the minds of organizational psychologists both men and women seem naturally inclined to see men as possessing more leadership potential. The results of their studies are not ambiguous. No matter what the researchers do, when a man and a woman speak up and offer ideas the man is considered to have demonstrated leadership potential, the woman, not so much.

Keep in mind, we’ve have fifty years of constant conversation about gender. We have all been told that we must consider it a social construct. We have even been forced to use gender neutered or generically feminine pronouns. We have even seen women leaning in more and more. 

Our benighted culture has been hard at work teaching people to deny the evidence of their senses and their understanding of reality. It has taught them to feel that they are bigoted if they see men possessing more leadership qualities than women. And yet, they persist in doing so.

The New York Times reports:

… getting noticed as a leader in the workplace is more difficult for women than for men. Even when a man and a woman were reading the same words off a script, only the man’s leadership potential was recognized.

The authors focused on one particular act associated with leadership: speaking up with ideas to move a team or company forward.

In one experiment, participants were asked to call into a monthly sales team meeting of a fictional insurance company, during which they would hear from either an Eric or an Erica. Later they were asked to rate the speaker on the degree to which he or she had “exhibited leadership,” “influenced the team” or “assumed a leadership role.”

The Erics who spoke up with change-oriented ideas were far more likely to be identified as leaders than Erics who simply critiqued their team’s performance. But Ericas did not receive a boost in status from sharing ideas even though they were exactly the same as the Erics’.

I am sure you find this shocking. The researchers could only explain it by assuming unconscious bias… bigotry against women. Or better, they explain it as a function of our thinking in stereotypes—though there really is no alternative to stereotyping. It would take far too long to form an opinion about each individual as an individual. Thus, we tend to stereotype.

And yet, for all the brain cells that have been activated looking for an answer to this difficult question, no one seems to have considered the fact that the male voice and the female voice are not the same. The male voice is pitched around two octaves lower. Does a lower voice suggest greater authority? I will leave it to you to decide.

Do we also need to mention that men are generally larger than women, that they are generally stronger than women, and that these biological disparities suggest greater authority? Duh.

One notes that both men and women had the same reaction to male and female potential leaders. This suggests that women are as bigoted as men. Or it simply tells us that for all the brainwashing we have endured over these many decades, reality, especially biological reality, will out. And that leadership cannot be detached from physical presence, from appearance or even from dress.


David Foster said...

I'm not sure how well leadership can be determined from watching someone in a single meeting. I've known people, both male and female, who were outstanding leaders....could motivate, could organize, could make good decisions...but you might not have known it from a single-meeting observation.

I think a lot of people got their idea of executive leadership from watching J R Ewing on old South Fork reruns, or something similar.

Sam L. said...

Don't know about leadership, but was it not Kipling who wrote "the female of the species is more deadly than the male"?

Anonymous said...

Do women handle challenge or resistance to their ideas or leadership differently than men?

Consensus building is a very valuable leadership skill, but sometimes leadership requires the leader to stand alone.


Anonymous said...

PS - physical strength and size have less impact on my willingness to accept someone's leadership than their knowledge,energy and integrity.
- shoe

David Foster said...

The kind of people who get promoted (especially to leadership positions) will likely be different in a *stable hierarchical organizations* versus one which is highly matrixed OR an outsourcing environment in which one must continually persuade new clients of one's skills. In the latter cases, collaboration skills and the ability to make an impression quickly are at a premium. There may also actually be more pervasive Groupthink in an extremely matrixed organization versus a hierarchical one.