Inspiring ‘Bridging the Gender Gap’ by Lynn Roseberry, Ph.D.
Lynn Roseberry, Ph.D., is the co-author, together with Johan Roos, Ph.D., of Bridging the Gender Gap: Seven Principles for Achieving Gender Balance, showing how leadership can play a role in producing or closing the gender gap in leadership.
When I began working with Johan on Bridging the Gender Gap, I had read hundreds of books and articles on feminism and gender-related issues. There are plenty of books, like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Gloria Feldt’s, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, addressed to women who want to pursue leadership, but none that answered the question, “If all the people who say they support gender equality mean what they say, why are most leaders still men?” I mean, really. Most people say they support gender equality and think that men and women should be treated as equals. So why don’t we have far more female leaders than we do now? I wanted to write the book that answers that question.
I think Johan and I managed to offer a fairly comprehensive answer. Together we went out and asked leaders in all kinds of organizations why they thought the gender gap in leadership persists and then examined what they told us in the light of all the relevant gender and management research we could get our hands on. The book is the result of that investigation. Our main conclusion? Business leaders need to change the way they lead.
Three books stand out in my mind as being important in shaping my own thinking, probably because they are both exceptionally well-researched and inspiring. That’s a rare combination.
I loved When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present ), by New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Gail Collins, because it reminded me how far women have come in just 50 years, how hard it was to get here, and how hard it will be to go further, but it left me with the feeling that it is worth all the hard work. Not only that, but it reads like a thriller. I could hardly wait to find out what was going to happen in the next chapter, even though I already knew about most of the events and people Collins was writing about.
I laughed out loud at least a hundred times when I read Cordelia Fine’s, Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences ). Fine plows through hundreds, if not thousands of scientific studies and popular accounts of innate sex differences, and handily sorts the rubbish from the gold with a big dash of humor. The main point of her book is to remind us how little we actually know about what makes humans behave the way they do, let alone what accounts for observed differences between male and female behavior. The “science” of sex differences is not as objective or free of sexist assumptions as we would like to think. The book is an extremely well-documented reminder that news stories are not science, although science can certainly produce popular news stories – that just isn’t what makes good science.
Last, but not least, reading Rebecca Traister’s treatment of the 2008 presidential campaign, Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women ), was an inspirational and energizing experience. That election was so uncomfortable for those concerned about race and gender equality. On the one hand, the Democrats had two great candidates who happened to be a Black man and a white woman. On the other hand, the Republicans offered up Sarah Palin, who claimed to be a feminist. Women who wanted Hillary Clinton to win claimed that they would rather vote for McCain and Palin than Obama. The Clinton’s were accused of racism. Obama was accused of sexism. Traister seemed just as bothered as I was by all of this, and she carefully teased apart these tangled up issues through a combination of personal narrative and good old-fashioned journalism. I especially appreciated her unflinching critique and analysis of all sides in this election. No one was left off the hook, but no one was portrayed as a villain, either. She showed how complex gender and racial issues are, how difficult they are to talk about, and how important it is to remember that there’s more that separates men and women than gender, and more that separates whites and blacks than race. It’s a crazy complicated world where the leaders you thought supported racial justice or gender equality, suddenly start saying or doing things that suggest they’ve wandered over to the other side. I deeply appreciated Traister’s ability to relish the complexity instead of throwing up her hands in disgust or defeat. Her book inspired me to adopt the same attitude towards my work with gender issues.
So if you need to be inspired, entertained and educated about the science and politics of gender, these books are a great place to start.
Learn more about Bridging the Gender Gap here.
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