We would love to believe that the ol’ boys’ club has gone the way of shoulder pads and pensions. It would be great if we could scratch from our collective conscious any idea of business deals made over rounds of golf at the country club. Let’s forget that knowledge of scotch and cigars used to be considered a requirement for business people. We’ll just pretend that the world has always accepted people who aren’t male and Caucasian. Sounds nice, right?
Well maybe it’s not just a fantasy. Maybe that is how we should approach management in the 21st century.
Hear me out, I’m not operating under the delusion that the glass ceiling has been broken, pay disparities have disappeared and stereotypes have been eliminated. That would necessitate a whole lot of memory loss. If I honestly believed that, someone would need to direct me to serious medical attention. (Because I would no longer be understanding reason.)
But it is generally recognized that we all want to move past that era of corporate culture. In mission statements and business schools all over the country, we’re committing to a new, more modern approach. Even if people don’t know how to put aside every antiquated bias, they’re at least making an attempt to be better informed and more just.
So is it possible that instead of worrying about the old ways and how they’re still effecting our present businesses, we should act as if the ol’ boys club never left a stain of prejudice on our companies?
It’s a little like “fake it til you make it.” We’ll start managing our employees and conducting our business like everything has always been just and fair. We’ll expect the change that we want to see in business politics. Instead of pulling out our hair when someone suggests that women can’t be CEOs, we’ll completely ignore their incoherent logic and move on, knowing that there’s no real reason we should be held back.
Maybe the best way to eliminate any stereotypical vestiges from the past is to ignore their very existence. In this way, businesses could refuse to acknowledge gender bias. Female managers working with men won’t overanalyze their techniques or positions, we’ll just carry on as if the sexes of our staff members don’t matter at all. Because they shouldn’t.
To be honest, I’m not sure if ignoring the past is the solution to all our problems. But it’s an interesting exercise to look at how often we worry about the past, as opposed to planning for the future. Could ignoring gender politics completely lead us to become the type of society where women don’t have to worry about being “mommytracked” whether they choose to have children or not.
What do you think? Should female executives stop thinking about the challenges that come with being women in traditionally male positions of power, and just start expecting to be treated like any man out there? Will our refusal to acknowledge any place for gender bias end its lingering presence in corporate culture? Maybe playing pretend is worth a try.
(Photo: Grass City)