Shellie Karabell, leadership writer for Forbes, helped debunk some myths about female leadership this week in her blog about female killer whales. Apparently if the male killer whales fretted as much as male and female humans about whether females should lead, they’d starve. It’s the females who learn where to find salmon.
My blog posted today on Big Think draws upon her analogy, to look at some of the ludicrous assumptions that not only hold women back but deny organizations the advantages women bring to senior management and executive boards. I don’t think, for example, that I’ve ever heard of men wondering if they were chosen to be on a board because of anything other than their competence. And yet we’re told that women invited onto boards, especially due to quotas, may feel that the reason for their selection had more to do with gender than merit.
From the Big Think blog:
Apparently, there’s no panicked silly “scrambling” among male killer whales over where to find enough experienced females, no “grooming” obstacle regarding claims that females haven’t been sufficiently mentored. No wringing of fins and flexing of hubris goes on about lowering the bar. They’re hungry. She knows where the salmon are. That’s critical. Case closed.
Researchers do not appear to have found female leader whales haunted by being “required” leaders. Maybe they even skipped the “token” period that supposedly made women insecure for decades. Somehow they lead undaunted despite smaller pectoral muscles and tail flukes.
If you’ve consulted for boards as I have, you know the selection criteria often has less to do with competence, often a given, than it does with power, connectedness, creativity, money or visibility.
Quotas like the ones put into law in Germany last week wouldn’t be needed if the assumptions treated as fact were questioned more often — especially that companies need to “scramble” to find women for executive boards. That should be funny.