Sunday, November 29, 2009

Men Diminishing Women in the Workplace, Albeit Unwittingly

To graphically illustrate the unwitting diminution of women that occurs in the workplace, even by men who are supposedly sophisticated and urbane, I narrated the following story to my audience at last week’s Toastmasters District 56 Fall Conference in Houston, just as I did a few weeks earlier to employees of Shell and the USDA, among others. [Incidentally, this is just one of the many recent cases I can readily recount that help rebut those who contend that such diminution of women’s communications is a thing of the past and that the topic is pass├ę.]

A couple of years ago, around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's “This Week with George Stephanopoulos," interviewed a panel comprising four members of the 9-11 Commission--former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, Attorney Richard Ben-Veniste, former Navy Secretary John Lehman, and Commission Chairman Thomas Kean. There were five rounds of questions, hence a total of 20 questions, and this is how Mr. Stephanopoulos addressed the panelists each time he asked a question: For each of the five questions put to Gorelick, she was addressed simply as “Jamie”; Ben-Veniste was addressed “Richard Ben-Veniste” all five times; the other two men were addressed as “Secretary Lehman” and “Commissioner Kean” respectively each time they were asked a question. I was aghast and indignant at seeing even George Stephanopoulos, widely regarded as one of our more suave and polished TV hosts, succumb to how we men are “hardwired.”

The express purpose of my sharing the above story with audiences is to raise men’s consciousness on this issue. The screw-up by Mr. Stephanopoulos, along with a couple of other real-life examples which specifically illustrate how men are losing job/ sales opportunities thanks to such invidious, albeit unconscious, behavior, have become staples of some of my communication modules. In a future blog, I will be discussing simple tactics and strategies that can be employed to preempt or nullify such situations.

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