A group of parents from my daughter's school needed to work out a carpool schedule for some upcoming events involving our kids' travel to certain Activities. I had been traveling and hadn't been paying much attention, but once I got home and tuned back in to domestic life, I realized that no one, including my spouse, had done anything about organizing the driving.
So I sent out an e-mail to everyone, summarizing what needed to be done when, and, just to get the process started, I proposed a preliminary driving schedule, noting that we could change this as needed if anyone had a time conflict with the schedule. I figured it would be easier to make adjustments to an existing schedule than to start from scratch.
Soon after I sent my e-mail, one of the dads ("Joe") sent an e-mail to everyone, acknowledging that it helped a lot that I had started organizing the carpool, and seconding my proposed schedule.
One of the moms then e-mailed everyone:
Dear Joe and others,
Joe, thank you for your leadership. It helps us all so much that you took the initiative to finalize the carpool schedule. blah blah blah
Katie (Hannah's mom)
Yeah, that was awesome leadership that Joe showed in agreeing with my plan. OK, I know that there are many benign explanations for Katie's awe of Joe's organizational skills and I am really not that fussed about the situation, but I can't help musing about the general questions that situations like this raise: e.g., Why did Katie think that Joe showed leadership, but I apparently did not show any such trait?
We will never really know, of course, but I think it is in the realm of possible -- and even very likely -- that this is related to the phenomenon in which fathers get major bonus points for being involved in school activities, whereas moms are expected to be involved. If so, then Katie's mother saw my e-mail as routine, but Joe's as special because -- even in 2010 -- it is more rare for dads to be involved.
And perhaps she was trying to praise Joe for being involved because then he would feel so wonderful that he would start attending the monthly parent meetings at the school and then he'd volunteer to help run the silent auction and coach the ultimate Frisbee team. And perhaps Katie knows that I am a lost cause re. all of those things and that the most anyone can expect from me is to be a driver in a carpool.
Again, who knows and, in this one trivial case, who cares? But it is not so trivial at a more cosmic level if women are not perceived as leaders even when there is evidence to the contrary. According to the logic of the scenario described above, a man is a leader when he agrees with a woman who took some initiative.
Actually, on second thought, I don't have a problem with that.
40 minutes ago