I learned this from my PhD carrying wife and I hope I get it right. I’m sure if I screwed it up I will hear about it quickly enough. She does read my blog.
50,000 years ago we lived in caves. The men went out hunting and the women stayed home and tended the cave, made food, watched the kids.
The men would go out in groups and hunt the dreaded Saber Tooth Cat. If they were smart, and worked together, constantly keeping in communication, giving information about what they were doing, they could be successful. They had a single thread goal — get the cat, work together to get the cat. The information about the cat’s location, each of their plans, the terrain that perhaps some of them had been over before, was all shared as they headed toward their goal. Those who went off on their own and thought they could get the cat another way, were often selected out of the gene pool by their quarry.
The women stayed at home. They had to multitask like the dickens. They had to prepare the mend the skins, care for the young, have food prepared, keep the cave neat. They had little time for talking and sharing. They literally had to keep the home fires burning. They worked their prehistoric butts off getting ready for their man’s return. And when he came back they had better be ready with a nice meal and a peck on the cheek, or they may not be seen as good mating material, and their linage would die out.The successful women worked alone and had little time to share.
Fast forward a few millennium. Women are stuck under a glass ceiling, men are getting all the choice jobs. Women are passed over right and left and seemingly less skilled men are promoted. Why? Prejudice? Sexism? or does it go deeper —
I have noticed in my working life, that men seem to be the gossips in the office. They are always walking around, chatting by the water cooler, talking about stuff. The women are working, getting those projects done, excelling at their jobs. Are the men really just talking about stuff? Or are they informally forming teams and sharing information about their tasks. Are they keeping their bosses informed about the status of their hunt for the cat? Are they using their single thread DNA to focus on the goal and do ‘what it takes’ to get it.
The women are at their desks doing the jobs assigned. They don’t have time for the water cooler. They have taken on a dozen jobs and are doing them all. They are multitasking five projects, fixing a hundred problems, and excelling at it. The problem is that they aren’t sharing their information (who has time?). They appear aloof. The have secrets (well, not really, but it seems that way.) Their communication skills may not be as developed as the men’s (are you crazy, what do I know about LaCrosse?) They are using their multitasking DNA to get those projects done on time and under budget.
Before you get out your torches and pitchforks let me say that this is a generalization and as such can be easily punched full of holes. Of course there are women who single thread and mix it up with the team and men who hide in their offices multitasking their hearts out.
Am I proposing that we go against type? That men should pick up some more duties and women should single thread? Dunno. However groups like Women in Parking give the members an opportunity to be exposed to others who maybe broke out and succeeded and they can learn how they did it. How were they noticed? How did they move along their career paths. What did they do that was different?
When I attended the WIP reception this week in Phoenix and met some very impressive people. Some were quiet, some were not. Some were not really comfortable in the room, others worked it like a Stradivarius.
I’m thinking that you don’t always have to be hunting the Saber Tooth Cat to succeed in business. But maybe a little hunt now and then wouldn’t hurt. We need the single thread folks and multitaskers. We couldn’t survive without both. Surely both can grow and prosper in business. And knowing the women in that room, they certainly didn’t do it by changing their DNA. They know the formula. Women in Parking is where they will share it.