More on belief.


I once worked for an organization that was close to 50% male and 50% female. As you worked your way up the organizational chart there was less and less gender balance, and by the time you got to the senior leadership team there was not a single woman to be found. How would you explain this? Is there something wrong here, or are you okay with this outcome? I am not asking for your politically correct response, approved for public consumption and distribution…but in the very center of your heart, is there something that needs to be fixed in this organization?

Obviously, there are a lot of things that you do not know about this particular organization (pipeline, culture, history, industry, etc.), but this is not a dynamic exclusive to one organization. It can easily be found in many organizations, institutions and industries, in fact we are actually talking here about the norm. Organizations (and entire industries) commonly have demographic outcomes noticeably different from community and/or national demographics.

What do you believe about this?

Is there anything wrong with this outcome?

Is this unacceptable, or no big deal?

If you believe there is something wrong, where is the wrong to be found?

  • Is there something wrong to be found in the values, culture or practices of the organization?
  • Is there something wrong to be found in the beliefs and behaviors of men?
  • Is there something wrong to be found in the beliefs and behaviors of women?

Again, beliefs matter. Your beliefs are going to determine what, if anything, you would do about this.

If you were put in charge of this organization today, what would your thinking be regarding this issue?

I personally believe in equality. I believe that we are equal. One of the reasons that I believe passionately in this country and continue to call this country home is that I see equality as one of the most fundamental aspects of what we are about…something we see as being self-evident. We are different, in a whole bunch of ways absolutely, but equal. Of equal value, and worthy of equal access. I believe in equal rights, and I believe that things like talent, ability, and potential (all fairly slippery concepts) are randomly distributed, not determined by membership in one social group or another.

As an extension of my belief in equality, I believe that a just organization, institution, process or  system will produce balanced outcomes, outcomes not greatly impacted by identity. People perform, succeed and fail at varying levels, but there is no correlation to social identity…your individual outcome is a function of what you do, not who you are. And, if we were to say, for example, that “anyone can grow up to be the president,” having presidents, over time, from a whole bunch of different social groups would serve as evidence that it is true, and that we have a just system for selecting our president. Things like income would not be noticeably different from one social group to another. The same would be true for graduation rates, employment, incarceration, who gets elected to office, who gets asked to speak, who gets to be on the cover of the magazine, etc. In general, I believe that the outcomes we produce as a society would be reflective of the general population. Things like height, gender, race and ethnicity would not be good predictors of incarceration, employment, etc.

So…about half of all teachers, preachers, CEOs, presidents, judges, senators, substance abusers and convicted criminals would be female and about half would be male.  About 13% would be African American. About 1% would be Buddhist.

This is quite clearly not the case, and what I am increasingly aware of is:

A whole bunch of us appear to be perfectly fine with this, in fact ready to aggressively defend it.

A whole bunch of us appear to think that if there is a problem it can generally be found in some deficit of character, ability or motivation among the population on the margin.

What about you? What do you believe?

Be good to each other.

Hope to see you soon! I will be speaking at:

The Great Ideas Conference on Tuesday, March 10th

South by Southwest on Sunday, March 15th

The Forum on Workplace Inclusion on Wednesday, March 18th

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