In 2011, a video of a little girl, Riley, went viral. Riley had become acutely aware of the gender bias attached to toys by the manufacturers in the way of the color, noting that “companies who make these toys try to trick the girls in to buying the pink stuff.”
This seemingly harmless segregation sticks with us throughout our lives, as the expectations of a woman’s life are still far different from a man’s. From early on, we are taught that our role is to nurture and are cast as more emotional than men. When it comes to marriage and families, it’s never a question that a man can navigate both home and work without having to sacrifice the path to getting ahead in the corporate world.
I took a great community-awareness leadership class through our Chamber of Commerce. Part of our year-long course was to complete a project that would help bring the group together and impact the community. To start, we needed to pick a class leader. There were no immediate, out-right volunteers so we decided to each write down the name of a person we would like to lead us on paper then tally the votes. There were about 30 of us in the class and we had a slightly higher female roster.
What interested me about the process was that overwhelmingly, most of the votes went to men in our class…and not just one or two men in particular. There were quite a few names submitted and out of about 13, only 1 of them was female.
We took this vote just after our first meeting together, so no one really knew much about each other at that point. I can only deduce that most of the votes were based on the very limited information about one another we had picked up in casual conversation and first impressions.
I am certainly not saying that the leader that our group chose was not a good one. It’s the fact that with over half the class composed of women, no one thought, based on initial assessments, to nominate another woman to lead the team. And we had some great women in our class with the potential to lead a fabulous project.
Why is it more easily assumed that a man would fall in to a leadership position than a woman? And why, in the year 2013, do we women still play a part in these assumptions? Have you ever been faced with a situation where a man in a position to give advice or guide others is seen as authoritative while a women in that same position is seen as domineering?
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of focus on women are thought to be versus what we have the capability of doing. There is not an easy fix for this but I do believe it starts as early as that first pink kitchenette, complete with its own little purple muffin pans. As long as we continue to live up to the same expectations, it will remain a challenge for the little boys and girls we raise to break the mold.