Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Women's Leadership Week

This week is women's leadership week.

The week was full of interesting events and speakers. Today I participated in a discussion about "women and the labyrinth of Leadership: Why women don't make it into the c- suite" moderated by professor Ed Freeman. On the panel were four women in leadership roles and a man for diversity's sake.

I was looking forward to a discussion led by Ed Freeman, who always seems to get discussions to a new level, forcing people to defend their positions, drilling in behind the blunt statements to carve out what people really think. Not this time though. Today, Prof. Freeman was very low key and so was the discussion.

The panelists asked us to be honest and even provocative. Sadly, we were not.

Questions such as "what advice could you give us as we enter corporate America" after stating how difficult it was to adjust post undergrad were politely addressed by the panelists with an "every company has a different culture". Thank god men don't need to adjust because we all come genetically prepared, love football, NASCAR, Golf and drink a gallon of Guinness before we brush our teeth in the morning.

In my past, when I was young and pretty, I used to be razor focused. I went into a meeting, knowing what the agenda was and I would get to it. Why waste time on irrelevant chit chats, right? My boss commented on this and told me to loosen up a little before meetings, maybe crack a joke or talk about other things outside of work before starting a meeting. I am so glad I took his advice. It was something I had to learn and I'm grateful for the feedback. I was surprised to hear a similar story today from a female student who thought she only got this feedback because she was a woman.

Don't get me wrong. I am not doubting the fact that there are still people in the world who are prejudiced based on sex. I just think that this group of people contains women as well as men.

The discussion almost started to be interesting when another female student raised the fact that women often overcompensate and then stopped herself from using a word that is used to describe female canines, but nobody wanted to leave the comfort zone of discussion.

It was disappointing to see such a shallow discussion in a school known for it's invigorating discussions.


Jackie said...

Hi Oren. Thanks for coming out this week to support our events. Glad to have you there. BTW, thanks for the question you asked during the LSS yesterday.

I appreciated reading your feedback on today's session. I agree with some of the sentiment that you shared...particularly about how "polite" and "safe" we stayed. I, too, was hoping it would get a little more challenging. I'm sure there were reasons for that...I guess...??

JulyDream said...

It's amazing how people tiptoe around the "important" subjects. I watched a decent amount of late night TV in Paris which included a program on gender equality. Very interesting and thought provoking. Check it out here:

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