By Nicki Gilmour, Executive Coach and Organizational Psychologist
Are you a sexist woman? You might be wondering where I am going with this but in ten long hard years of working on gender equality, the one thing that has amazed me most is the level of sexism against women perpetrated by women. How do you know if you are harboring biases against women? If you are, you are probably unaware if you do have biases and maybe on a very unconscious level you believe in deeply engrained gender roles without ever looking at this.
This of course will seem odd to you as a working professional women who may even espouse that you are all about seeing women advance. Are you brave enough to look at your deepest held beliefs? It is a journey, and scary at times but one that can help you understand which paradigms are really aligned with your values and which have been handed to you and upon inspection do not take you to where you want to go or who you want to be.
It is a spectrum to fall on, this sexist thing. No one is exempt from having some bias for and against everything from who you work with to seemingly unimportant things such as whether you prefer watching sports played by women or men and then which is the better version according to you. The constructs behind the “why” is really the piece that can be examined, and if the “why” lines up for you, then great, but more than half of the time, as a coach and a psychologist, I find that not to be the case.
Do you believe that men are more leaderlike than women? In a 50 year long, regularly updated case study called “Think Manager, think Male” on which groups of men or women (by the way imaginary group not actual people) are believed to be more leaderlike rated by their assigned traits. Even when young women answer the survey, they vote straight white men as more competent and productive than themselves. So, you tell me where does that leave the “the lean in”, you go girl mantra? Mind blowing isn’t it? Not to me, I can totally see that the lack of progress being made is in part due to the mental models the patriarchy has given most of us. The mind blowing part to me is that if once people examine it and see no value in keeping it that they keep it anyway out of inertia or fear of change.
The other area to see where you are or others is to talk about children. If you hear yourself or others applying different standards of behavior to your girl children and boy children, then you can be sure that you are taking that into work with you too and as a bonus setting them up for carrying on that belief too.
No judgment from me, my job is not to agree to disagree or feel aligned with your values. My job is to ask you the question – now that you have looked deeper into how do you feel about ensuring women and men are treated with the same benchmark when it comes to leading, working and being promoted fairly after reading this post?
What is your role in creating the world you espouse to believe in at work and at home?