Got What It Takes?
Recently, a study out of Brigham Young University done by Professors Jessica Preece, Olga Stoddard, and Christopher F. Karpowitz, was published demonstrating in a clean, direct, and succinct manner, the systemic social mechanisms that lead to less women in leadership. An article in BYU Magazine by Brittany Karford Rogers boils it down to the essentials for us all to know not just what was found in the study, but also soundly advises what we should do about it.
The article begins with an italicized statement, "Groundbreaking BYU research shows what it takes for a woman to truly be heard." It's a hard article to read, specifically for how intensely it cuts to the bone of a core experience of all women, and likely, increasingly acute depending on the woman's ethnicity, weight, age, manner of speaking, manner of dress, and objective attractiveness.
The moment that resonated with us most at WIIS West, however, is toward the end of the article when the researchers quote Jessica R. Preece, Professor of Political Science at the aforementioned university: "It can't be overcome by excellence."
In our domain, women exemplify the meaning of excellence. The veins of global security, from national to international, have not just been male dominated since their modern inception, but have been masculine normative in their execution, from policy to practice. To be a woman in the security field is a circus act of code switching and social-professional minefields, while maintaining a baseline of razor-sharp scholarship and strategic thinking. Essentially, those of us lucky enough to make it in this field have to be amongst the most excellent. Yet even then, it is more often than not, a problem to move forward. Sometimes excellence itself can be the inhibitor; if women demonstrate superior capabilities, we become a threat to the professional ego or progression of others. It's a velvet rope we have, thus far, had no control over unhitching.
This article speaks (no pun intended) to exactly why this is. The minefield is there intentionally to blow us up and keep us from the system change majority female leadership would inevitably bring about. POSITIVE change for all, eliminating the current model of "conquer and dominate" which causes suffering and anguish to most people outside of the ownership class.
Could it be that with simple behavioral modification, we could make the headway to not just get control over the velvet rope, but to do away with it all together?
I encourage everyone to read this, no matter your gender or affiliation. In fact, especially no matter your gender. As the article proves, the only way to get the change is for the following 7 criteria:
1. Men, Listen Up
2. women, Speak Up
3.Positive Support Matters
4. Change the Rules
5. Watch Out for Stereotypes
6. Leaders, Take Note
7. Teach a Better Way
Excellence is not enough. The system doesn't care if you are excellent. So let's all stop spinning our wheels and burning out our engines. Let's have what it takes to truly be heard.
Much thanks to the scholarship of the research team, the excellent summery by Ms. Rogers, and thank you to a faithful East Coast friend of WIIS West, April Tilley, for sending this article to us.