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Louise Ripley

Gender Issues in Management

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black and white face sculptures

Diversity as Something to be Sought

Sandi Warren In remembrance Sandi Warren was a graduate of the York Women's Studies Programme, and my dear good friend. She took this course in the second year I offered it, 1990, and came back every year to speak with the on-campus course about valuing diversity, and many other things. Sandi was originally a computer expert at Dofasco and used her final paper in the course to create a previously unheard-of job for herself in the field of equity at her company. She went on to earn a Masters in distance education, taking it by distance, and in June of 2008, successfully defended her PhD at Trent University, researching how indigenous views of work can help inform Western ways of viewing work, and vice versa. She started a new job as a professor at Athabasca University in their distance programme. Some of the things that work best in the distance courses I teach are ideas that have come from Sandi when I've gone to her for advice.




Along the way through her undergraduate degree, Sandi discovered her Métis heritage, and a lot of what made Sandi who she was (and what I love so much about her) stemmed from this tradition. Sandi was a woman of astounding calmness, bravery, and clarity, whom I strive to emulate. After a number of difficult years at York, I recently reclaimed my office in a way that began to make my place of work, work for me. That office was inspired by and modeled after Sandi's concept of healing places and the importance of our surroundings. mong other things, Sandi brought to the in-class meetings of this course stories and amulets and feathers and skins and her drum, and a huge shell whom she calls "Grandmother", and her Medicine Wheel, and when the weather was right, she used to bring Elk, her elk-skin jacket from which I learned the Native view of furs which enables me to wear mine.

Sandi maintained that we are all "diverse" in one way or another. One of the points of Diversity Management is recognizing that no one group should have the privilege of standing up and saying that others who are not like them are different. Diversity management means recognizing the value of diversity - the multiplicity of talents and abilities and interests available to a term of "diverse" employees (or students). Many companies are now using the phrase "Valuing Diversity", meaning we need to recognize the positive aspects of and advantages to a more diverse workforce instead of just seeming to "tolerate others." For example, the top 10% of MBA graduates from which business has traditionally hired its new management increasingly contains more women; a company that hires only men will have to look among less qualified candidates.

Sandi and I were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, at around the same time. I underwent a mastectomy in November, but Sandi's turned out to be Stage IV lung cancer and a few days after Christmas we lost her. I mourn her passing; I don't know what I will do when the week comes when Sandi usually joins us, but we can at least see her talking to the class, on November 3, 2008, our last day in class together. 

Watch Sandi in Class Live (this is a wmv file, a video of Sandi speaking for about an hour in the classroom. It will take about 7 minutes to download with a high-speed cable connection; it may be impossible to do on dial-up).

Read more about Sandi here

Pointers for an Androgynous Combination
from: Alice Sargent (1977) Beyond Sex Roles. St. Paul: West Publishing

One of the marks of a good leader is respecting diverse ways of doing things, different skills, different talents, different views of the world. We're not all good at everything, and certainly society tends to socialize us as boys and girls to be better at some things than at others. While still respecting differences, we also need to look at where we can learn new skills and abilities.

Alice Sargent wrote a list more than 30 years ago detailing what women tend to need to get better at and what men tend to need to get better at. 

Women Need to

Learn how to be powerful & forthright
Be entrepreneurial
Have a direct, visible impact on others rather than functioning behind the scenes
Focus on a task & regard it as at least as important as the relationships of the people doing the task
Build support systems with other women and share competencies with them rather than competing with them
Build a sense of community among women instead of saying, "I pulled myself up by my bootstraps! Why can't you?"
Intellectualize and generalize from experience
Behave impersonally rather than personalize experience, denying another's personality because different from ours
Stop turning anger, blame and pain inward
Stop feeling comfortable with feelings of suffering and victimization, and instead seek to feel in charge
Have the ability to reject feedback if the information does not come in a helpful way
Stop being bitchy or passive-resistant about resentments and anger
Respond directly with "I" statements rather than with blaming "you" statements
Be effective problem solvers - analytical, systematic, and directive rather than fearful or dependent
Stop self-limiting behaviours such as allowing oneself to be interrupted, or laughing after making a serious statement
Be risk takers, although difficult when each woman feels she is regarded as representative of all womankind

Men Need to

Become aware of feelings, rather than denying or suppressing them
Accept and express feelings as a valid part of oneself, rather than as a part to be hidden and compartmentalized
Regard feelings as essential part of life, authenticity and effectiveness rather than as impediments to achievement
Experience and own the vulnerability and imperfections which are part of everyone
Assert the right to work for self-fulfillment rather than only to meet the obligations of the "provider" role
Value an identity that is not defined totally by work
Accept a share of responsibility for "providing" but refuse total responsibility for it
Learn how to fail at a task without feeling one has failed as a man
Accept and express need to be nurtured rather than hide feelings behind mask of strength, rationality, invulnerability
Touch and be close to both men and women, with less inhibition over presence or absence of sexuality in contact
Listen actively without feeling responsible for solving others' problems
Share feelings as the most meaningful and personal part of one's contact with others
Accept the risk and vulnerability that the sharing of feelings implies
Build support systems with other men, share competencies without competition, feelings/needs without dissembling
Personalize experience, rather than assuming the only valid approach to life and interpersonal contact is "objective"
Accept that emotional, spontaneous, intuitional (right brain) are valid parts of oneself to be explored and expressed 
Nurture and actively support other men and women in their efforts to change

The point of so many of the readings we do in this course is to get you to think about how they are relevant to management issues with respect to gender. Sargent's lists obviously are about gender. In what way are they about management?

waving hand Exercise
Sargent on Management
Look carefully at the two lists. What top three things that women are good at and what top three things that men are good at do you believe are most important for a manager, and why?
Post your answer in the Moodle Discussion Group.
Self Portrait by Vincent VanGogh with bandaged ear No one should be overlooked as a potential employee or recipient of a raise or promotion or inclusion on a team  just because they are "different" from someone's idea of the ideal. That ideal just doesn't exist. There is no common portrait. There is no "normal" employee." Here's an exercise to try that may help convince you of this. 


One of the things Sandi taught me is that in the ongoing debate about what makes an able person, we get caught up in what to label people who are not quite as able when we have not stopped to realize that in one way or another we are all "disabled." There have been lots of terms suggested for those that someone sees as handicapped, disabled, physically challenged, differently-abled... but the technique I like best is to refer to everyone else as T.A.B. 

Temporarily Able Bodied

What does it mean to be fully-abled? Who decides what defines "able"? Even if you were to find someone who was completely and fully "able" in all things (impossible), all it takes is a split-second to make us less able than we were and hence the term T.A.B. If you haven't yourself fallen on ice or stairs or a wet kitchen floor or a slippery curb, you know someone who has, perhaps injuring herself enough to have to miss work. If you're not sick today, you know someone who is, perhaps sick enough to miss work. If your doctor has proclaimed you healthy today, she may tomorrow tell you that you have an incurable disease. These things can strike in seconds. In 1989, playing with our then-four-year-old son, in less than a second, my husband fell and broke his leg, leading to five months in a cast, the demise of the one-man business he had owned for more than forty years, and my becoming the sole financial support of the family. 

If you're temporarily reasonably able-bodied, enjoy it while you can and have a little respect and appreciation for those who became less able at some things before you do. I have a dangerously bad knee from a football injury (I used to play for the Argo's; that's my story and I'm sticking to it) that prevents my doing a number of things. I suffer from depression and have to take special care of many things to deal with that. I don't take in information easily by ear and when you ask me to do something for you, in person, you'll see me reach immediately for pencil and paper. So, although I consider myself pretty lucky in all I can do, you could not accurately describe me as "able-bodied." We are only ever temporarily able-bodied. Here's an exercise to try that may help convince you of this. 

waving hand Exercise
Normal Person
Go out into the world in which you function and find a "normal" person. Find out enough about them to back up your claim and describe the person to the group. 
Post your answer in the Moodle Discussion Group.

The Level Playing Field

Click here to read about The Level Playing Field

waving hand Exercise
Level Playing Field
Imagine you are either Randir, Jane, or even John and that you have just discovered the whole truth about how John got the job. Write a brief note to tell us how you feel about it.
Post your answer in the Moodle Discussion Group.


Sheryl Sandberg's Book Lean In

waving hand Exercise
Sandberg Diversity
How does Sheryl Sandbert's book Lean In help you further understand the topic of this unit?
Post your answer in the Moodle  Discussion Group.


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AP/ADMS/WMST3120 3.0 Gender Issues in Management
York University, Toronto
© M Louise Ripley, M.B.A., Ph.D.