A female colleague of mine attended a long meeting today during which the meeting leader assumed that everyone in the room was a parent and would relate to his extended analogy involving raising children. She says he went on and on about parents and kids, and he kept saying things like “As we all know from raising our own children..” until finally she couldn’t stand it anymore and pointed out to him that she and perhaps others in the room did not know what it was like to raise a child, so should they leave the meeting since they had no clue what he was talking about? She thinks the group now considers her to be oversensitive and high-strung, but I think she made an important point.
I can understand why someone leading a meeting might want to use an analogy or a reference point to try to move the discussion forward, but it seems that so often the chosen device unnecessarily excludes people. I think my colleague was right to point out to him that he should cut off the extended parenting analogy and get on with the main task of the meeting. When my sports-analogy-loving department chair goes into sports analogy mode, I tune out or ask for clarification, depending on my mood. However, if an entire meeting depended on knowing the rules of football, I would either do what my colleague did or I’d just leave.
Quick comment on another topic: In an article in the business section of the NY Times last Sunday, a woman executive noted that having one woman on a corporate board didn’t have much effect because the lone woman was so concerned with not appearing to have a ‘female agenda’. Having two women wasn’t much different, as they mostly tried to avoid each other and not appear to be a voting bloc. Three women was critical mass for everyone acting like the businesspeople they are without regard to gender. I think the situation is similar in academia, but ideally there would be at least 3 women in each academic rank rather than several female assistant professors in a department dominated by tenured men.
9 months ago