by Marsha Hudson Ph.D. |
Not too long ago I was involved in staging a production number for YouTube from a musical I had written. Along with the relevant cast members, there was also a videographer, and a small audience of friends and colleagues including an old friend of mine who we had just asked to help with marketing. He and I both knew the videographer from mutual association with a non profit some while back. I was the director of the number and also one of the dancers. While I was rehearsing the dance number, the friend left the audience and proceeded to give on going direction to the videographer. She took his direction, not knowing that he was new to the project. When I could I asked him why he stepped in to direct when I was the director, not he, and he replied that he saw a need for better direction and although he had never done any theatre work, he wanted to help out.
This is an example of what happens to women leaders all of the time: Their leadership is often questioned or disregarded by male colleagues and men may even take over their leadership role as they see fit. With this treatment many women develop a note of tentativeness which reinforces the mae view that women are insecure and thus incapable of leading. Many women find being a leader of mixed groups too dauntiing and decline the job; many others find ways to be successful despite the pitfalls.
Having men take over your job before your very eyes, with the implication that you don’t know what you are doing, or you need help, is bad enough, but there are even more serious ways that women leaders are intimidated and humiliated in the workplace. Despite this there was a huge surge in 2018
of women running for office in the United States congress and being elected in record numbers. But already some of those women are quitting—just as women quit their corporate job –because of the catcalls, poisonous letters, even sexual harassment. The message is loud and clear: men, who dominate jobs and public spaces, don’t want the competition of women.
Why is this?
The root cause of this behavior is a culture premised on the hegemony and domination of men over women. When women challenge this world order by stepping into roles previously held by men– or that men believe should not be held by women, men resist in any way they can. Oftentimes this resistance in loud, visible, or even violent; other times it is subtle and nuanced such as arguing that the reason women are paid less than men is because they don’t negoitiate larger salaries, as men do.
The advice to women is to become tough and assertive—to be more like men and then they will be more successful in their jobs. Recently it has been argued that perhaps a better solution for everyone would be for men to become more like women: compassionate, collaborative, and oriented toward people rather than profit. Is this realistic?
I believe it is and will address how and why in upcoming blogs