I’ve been a great believer in initiatives to improve the gender imbalance and to focus on diversity of all kinds. I genuinely want to be inclusive.
But the more I look at it, the more I think that most of our actions are just window dressing. I wonder if we’re acting, but essentially undertaking institutional appeasement. Saying the right things, whilst nothing really changes.
What if business is essentially a masculine construct, with male rules and the only way to succeed is by being more male than the men?
I wrote a post back in 2013 called “Just a middle class white guy” and reading it now I think I only scratched on the surface of something that actually significantly hampers our ability to genuinely leverage organisational performance
Not only are all our rules are stacked in favour of men. We’ve taken the rule book and hidden it behind third urinal from the left.
When we go for an interview and they are looking for qualities like “commercial”, “decisive”, “confident” or “ambitious”.
When meetings are ruled by the “single minded”, “focused”, “action orientated” and the “natural leaders”.
What are we really talking about?
Of course, I’m not saying that women don’t have these characteristics or indeed that men automatically do. What I’m saying is that our laziness and sloppy use of language hides a darker truth.
We build our assumptions of success based on the evidence that we have around us. But if that evidence is based on an uneven foundation, are we sure that we really know what is genuine success?
We reward, we promote, we recruit and we develop people in the model of business that is built on a masculine premise. We tell people that they need to be more like our predetermined view of the “norm” if they are going to succeed. We develop them towards this and reward them when they comply.
The more that I look at it, this won’t be solved by initiatives, campaigns or well-meaning propaganda. This will only be solved by wholesale reform and re-engineering of organisational culture and practice by the “male types” that run them.
But most likely, it just won’t. Or at least, not any time soon.