Comments: Women and Leadership Roles: How Emotional Literacy Would Solve the Problem of the "Male Dominated" Tech and Business

Lots here to comment on -- but my overwhelming response is three-fold:

1 - It's discouraging that we're still dealing with these issues; I was one of those in the 70s who believed we were changing things. It's definitely BETTER, but still a problem.

2 - I'm happy to see you younger women taking this on! It gives me hope.

3 - Men have to see this as an issue, too, and be willing to speak about it. If it's only women talking, it's easier for men (and women) to write off those women. One young man told me he saw his wife dealing with these issues, but he didn't really get it until he had a daughter and saw what happened in school. But he DOES now get it!

Posted by Nancy Van House at July 8, 2011 07:04 PM

"I get it's very hard work each of us needs to do to face our selves and our emotional truths, so that when we go to work, we are clean and clear."

Mary, Please consider my comments here to clear issues I have with regard to lack of communication with the organization you chair at PDEC, and the interactions we have had in groups at IIW.

"Men and women can't now see each other as just human because of the many thick filters in the way of our communication and shared goals, that hold us in more adolescent gender roles."

In my experience within fields of technology, women and women often do not see each other clearly. Not unlike the popularity cliques of adolescence, all too often I have encountered successful women in tech who reinforce inner circle filters, once passing muster with the "cool kids"

As you close your post here with the statement below, I ask the same with regard to the PDEC - women could invite women in to really share the work...

"If men could invite women into really share the work, with full ability to share emotional and intellectual reality -- without judgements created through a person's own filters and projections, but rather from a place where both sides have emotional literacy -- with full ability to work toward the greater good, and long term success of the company and projects, men would succeed with less risky behavior and achieve more balance, women would succeed by bringing in their more considered approach to receive full acceptance as tech and business co-workers, co-founders and partners, leaders and contributors. And people, society, our economy, would be far more stable and successful by the work of an emotionally literate leadership and creator populace."

Posted by Barbara Bowen at July 11, 2011 10:00 AM

Hi Barbara,

I'm really confused about your comments.

First.. this post is about men excluding women. So is your comment that women exclude women? I get that's an issue too, and an important one, but one that has a whole different set of dynamics and is likely a totally different blog post. But I agree it's important.

So.. I'm confused about how this issue of men and women relating in the workplace relates to PDEC?

If you have issues with PDEC.. why not talk to me about them on a PDEC channel instead of here on a blog post about how men and women relate in work situations?

We'd be happy to talk about how you can work on PDEC.. we are a trade association around personal data ecosystem issues.. anyone can ping us about helping to advance the vision.

I just didn't know (this is the first i've heard of your desire to work on this).


Posted by Mary Hodder at July 11, 2011 11:19 AM

Thank you for taking the time to write this. You've helped me realise something important about the way I interact with teams. I need to find a way to mitigate the "bummer" factor when I analyze proposals and suggest improvements.

Posted by Karen Pauley at July 12, 2011 03:45 PM

Hi Karen,
Thanks.. yes.. it's a very long post.. but I tried to describe a complicated set of interactions.

As far as moderating what you do to avoid the "bummer" factor.. that's a tough one. I think my point her is that we all need to get more emotionally literate.. so that when you see a problem and share the data, you aren't moved away from because what you said is a bummer.

Instead, we really want men and women to embrace what you have shared as really valuable problem solving because you see something others may not.

In that sense, you have to figure out how to share the problem and be constructive.. but if others can see that it's valuable, it's really their loss. You just have to figure out how to say it in the best way so that your data can be used well.

Good luck! I know it's a difficult issue.


Posted by Mary Hodder at July 12, 2011 04:54 PM

What you call emotional literacy is the ancient practice of mindfulness to being present with "what is". Hidden fears, anger, hate, resentment are like bands on our heart. Most of us block off our hearts as our default position.

A true shift is needed so we can stop accepting the necessity of acting from a place that blocks what most of us need and desire: To develop courage, true strength, love, compassion and respect for each other so we are able to connect and work for common goals and interest. It takes attentive awareness and concentrated presence. These are the essential first steps of insight meditation practice. Some great talks are available online for inspiration and guidance.

Posted by Meryl Steinberg at July 13, 2011 01:40 PM


Lots of insight and clear thinking here.I do believe the emotional work is not just critical to the shift you're pointing at but to the culture generally adapting to a different economy.

And I believe the shift will happen because it's in the interests of the the forms technology and biz themselves are taking.

One thought re: mindfulness for @Meryl . I think beyond emotional literacy , or rather within it isn't just mindfulness but emotional containment. This is learned and if you've had developmental trauma (more common than we generally acknowledge) mindfulness isn't enough to get the basic steps of development to happen that need to happen to contain the emotions.

Posted by heather at July 14, 2011 10:03 PM

Wonderful, deep, thoughtful piece that is tying together a lot of disparate threads. I'm still chewing on much of this, but one thought carried with me throughout my first read... if men are responsible for helping men (something I strongly believe--this already works in some sexual assault awareness programs, for example), how do we, as a culture, hold them responsible for doing the work? Largely because of their privilege, because things already work pretty darn well for the average straight white dude, they won't be coaxed into upsetting any apple carts. And there are few men who are willing to lead. This is the point where I get sad... heh.

I thought also about the men's consciousness raising groups of the 70s that rose up to complement the women's. I'm told that they were responsible, for example, for having regular meetings with a partner women's group, to make sure they were doing the work. I don't think men's CR would work now (cue that goofy video that went around with the men apologizing for everything and calling the women "goddess," blech), but can we learn from that?

Posted by Deanna Zandt at July 19, 2011 05:58 PM

Mary -
Kudos for capturing and weaving a complicated and compelling story of what goes on below the surface in male-female professional dynamics. Having cut my teeth in tech, I have to agree with many of your observations.

I want to build a bit on what Meryl, Heather and you are saying about both emotional literacy/containment and mindfulness. I agree that all of those are critical elements and tools to getting beyond the dynamics you identify here, which largely boil down to school-yard antics between the sexes (I'm not dissing what you're saying, I'm agreeing). Someone's gotta grow up and demonstrate (not tell) the others on the playground what grownups act like, think like and feel.

Owning our full selves, emotionally and otherwise, is a critical first step to this - and while I'm not sure it's entirely up to each gender to solve the problem for themselves, I agree that within the gender circles more work can be done more quickly. However, I believe this is just the beginning. When you get a handle on emotional literacy you have the potential to free yourself from the culture you're trying to lead. But actually freeing yourself requires more than emotional literacy, it requires mastery of emotional intelligence, including learning to use emotional intelligence to set goals, give the groups/teams you rely on power to help reach them, and constantly shape the very culture you live in. It requires a degree of detachment and commitment which is unnatural in our world. This is a tall order, but an achievable one for those who are ready to step up to it. This is true power.

One concern I have for women is that while men are (to the detriment of their emotional literacy for sure) focusing on the business outcomes, far too often, women are focusing on the people dynamics at the expense of the business outcomes. As you point out its a balance of these things that will "win" in the long term, but I believe women need to step up and use their emotional literacy/intelligence/mastery to achieve business results. I think that is how we'll demonstrate what adult behavior and leadership look like. If we don't, I don't blame others for sidelining us. Being in business is about achieving results. Learning to define successful results is also a mastery skill, but we need to master that as well.

In short, I applaud your analysis and your honesty in putting it out there and I encourage you to go farther and reach higher to master the *dynamics you speak of* for the good of the individuals and the organizations you/we serve. I'm working to do the same and am very very glad to have such a powerful woman at my side:)

Thanks for writing this.

Posted by Dana Theus at July 20, 2011 05:43 PM