There was no one else to cover the front desk.
That’s how my friend “escaped” the women’s leadership meeting at her company. But don’t worry, she was told, they’ll rotate and she can go to the next one.
Society is made up of a conglomeration of different social groups, women among them. Every company has minority groups that find camaraderie in their shared experience: Whether it’s due to a shared a religion, ethnic background or language, or even just a hobby (the Fantasy Football guys come to mind), human beings seek sameness.
Women make up nearly 51% of the American population, according to the 2010 census. Yet as the numerical majority in the population, women are often lumped together into one homogenous group that has “special” needs due to a shared history of misogyny.
The often referred to leadership gap between the sexes persists, and at the level of CEO’s may as well be considered a leadership chasm.
But we’ve arrived at a point in history where singling women out does more harm than good.
The women at my friend’s company are reading Lean In, former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book about women and leadership. Sandberg is certainly an expert on the topic, but an individual woman choosing to read a book is quite different from a mandatory, organized seminar.
These women-only conferences often end up encouraging women not to succeed as women, but in spite of it. They are predicated on the assumption that nestled in the depths of the womb that differentiates woman as Other are the seeds of inherent weakness. Worst of all, the perpetrators are not men, but the women who present themselves as the exclusive vendors of the magical diamond saw that will burn a hole in the glass ceiling just big enough for one woman at a time to ascend.
And these kinds of conferences are problematic for other reasons.
They sustain the idea that a woman needs special guidance due to her gender.
And they exclude men, many of whom would also benefit from leadership training, thus reinforcing the us/them dichotomy that created and perpetuates inequality.
Our attention should focus on socializing a new generation into a world where men and women are accustomed to mutual respect.