Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 01/29/2024
A woman wrote me on Linkedin, very politely, and told me that she had followed my work for several years and was very impressed. However, in visiting my site, she found that “people in a position of power were consistently male, rarely female.” She told me that, as a woman, she’d want to know more about what I offered specifically for a woman’s needs, and would want to see more role models.
I told her that the empirical facts were that my community (people with whom I interact in person or remotely—there’s no way I can know about my readership) skews about 60% female, including paying clients. Not one of them has ever made the observation that this person has, and since they’re in my community I’m assuming that they don’t share her feelings. I explained that I try to help every person become excellent and my experience was that the route was not gender-related. It was one highway.
She told me that we’d just have to respectfully disagree, but I told her that she needed a more positive purpose in life than counting pronouns or photos or art work by gender. Seeking to uncover what someone has failed to do in terms of her own measuring devices is not a positive pursuit, not a contribution to helping others. No one is building statues for critics.
This is what we’ve come to, because she’s not alone. We’re insisting on representation by identity, and not success through talent and achievement. Early in my career I was asked to speak at a Boston Women’s Executive Marketing Association, with female executives and entrepreneurs. I asked the executive director why she had reached out to me since so many such groups were seeking “proper role models.”
“You are the damn role model,” she said, “so just show us what we can be doing better to be more effective and successful.”
I don’t care what gender my ski coach is, but I do care about whether that person can ski well and teach well.
I walked off a stage once to the normal line of people waiting to talk to me. The fourth person in line was a woman who told me that my examples and language were “neutral” and it was impressive that I was able to do that so consistently. The seventh person in line was a woman who told me that I consistently cut women’s responses off while allowing men to complete their questions, and that I laughed at men’s jokes but not women’s. These were two people at the exact same speech talking to me ten minutes apart. I didn’t place great credence in either one. They were laboring to find what they wanted to find.
When I took over the ballet up here, granting agencies were giving us a hard time because the board wasn’t “diverse enough” (we had 12 white women and two white men—I changed that considerably within a year). But I said to the agency directors, “Come look at our audiences, they are the most diverse on any of the arts productions in the state. Isn’t THAT the point?”
Some people don’t get the point until you drop a rock on their heads.
Once you have power, you are inevitably surrounded by people who have their own agendas and will tell you whatever advances them. —Margaret Heffernan
It’s very dangerous for a storyteller to walk into a situation with a political agenda because you end up telling a story about issues instead of telling a story about people. —Peter Landesman
In the private sector, as the president of a small business, my focus has been on driving the growth of our business, not driving any partisan political agenda. —Raja Krishnamoorthi