Research shows that things in general get better when women and men share power more equally…..when women’s style of leadership is a factor in the family, in the board room, and at the top of organizations. Really? Yes. Nicholas Kristof in the Sunday NY Times provides a few examples of research to back his statement: “…..a lesson of history is that when women advance, humanity advances.”
This positive result of women advancing has been demonstrated in micro lending programs around the world. When women receive loans to support small business/work efforts in even the smallest of ways–i.e. weaving and selling baskets(!) it improves the education and diet and health of the children and the family as a whole. Additionally, research by Amalia Miller at the University of Virginia found that more women in police departments made an increase in the reporting of domestic violence which prevented escalation….thus fewer violent killings.
More and more research supports the inclusion of women has a positive impact on decision making in general. So what makes us so slow to acknowledge this and move in the healthy direction of treating female and male candidates equally — for any job, let alone PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES?
Unconscious bias is the underlying issue. Out of our awareness we judge women and men differently. We hold women to standards that most men could not measure up to. What’s that about? I believe it’s about the “system definitions of the roles of women and men.” The roles are defined and supported by the family, the organization, the church, the corporation, and all levels of government. And when women “step out of the box” defined for them by society, the psychological group pressure of our systems pushes back — and sometimes violently.
Think for a moment of how much you are likely to put people in “boxes.” We like to know what to expect, so when people move outside of those expectations, most of us experience stress. It makes us work harder to let go of assumptions and THINK about each person as an individual, consequently we do have a quick reaction to people who are “different” from the role defined for them in our society. This has made change challenging. We have actually appeared to make more progress on LGBT issues, and I’m grateful that is so, than on the basic sex role definitions for women and men.
Answer this question about your “own box.” “What do good daughters do?” (Further, what do “good sons” do?) You know the answer to that, regardless of whether you think you measure up! How do you know the answer? Because your mother TOLD you what good daughters do! Those expectations are the childhood building blocks for the beginning definition of the “role definition” of young girls. (and boys)…. Take it further. What happened to you when you did not behave like a “good daughter?” Typically you were punished or disciplined or criticized. That’s just a piece of the building blocks for the roles we take on, the behavioral “boxes” that develop. The society/the system absorbs them and helps reinforce them. Are role definitions necessary? Helpful? Certainly. We need a psychological frame of reference for living our lives. It’s the rigidity, and the unconscious bias that creates difficulty.
We continue to see women as the “feeling” people who connect and build relationships … and families. And we see men as the “thinking” people who solve problems and fix things and consequently LEAD…The reality is combining those two skills is far more effective than separating them. Years ago Dr. Alice Sargent wrote the Androgynous Manager, a break through book on looking at these differences and the power of operating in both realms for both women and men. Regardless, we are lagging behind in our ability to see in ourselves and in our behavior how we apply these out-dated images and role definitions in our day to day lives.
Here’s an example of the absence of learned bias. What happens when we can’t SEE the person who is interviewed? The best example: symphony orchestras began to have blind auditions for musicians. Candidates played behind a curtain. The results? More women in orchestras! So what if bias could be eliminated? We’d be judged and we would judge others on our individual merits. And regardless of our political beliefs and preferences, we would be embracing the concept of a woman running to be president of the United States.
I’m particularly excited by the “possibility” that THREE women could be the leaders in three countries…..The United States, England, and Germany! If the research is accurate that when women advance, humanity advances, imagine the possibilities!