Women and Leadership – Redux

I recently read a heartening piece about women and leadership. “Paradigm for Parity” is the name of a new group dedicated to achieving gender equality in the top tier of American business by 2030.

2030 seems a long way off, but it’s not really. Not when you think of how miserably sluggish has been progress along these lines even in the last decade, supposedly a time of enlightenment. Not when you think how resistant has been the system to change that is other than incremental – at the margins.

Groups like Paradigm for Parity are no panacea. But they’re a small sign that people are starting to organize, not just women but men. And, it’s a small sign that Big Business at least will be expected to set targets for women at every level, including at the top.

Trouble is I recently read another article, that suggests something quite different. This article supports my politically incorrect position that the overriding reason women have made so little headway in recent years, especially at the highest levels, has less to do with the system, and less to do with the biases of men, than it does with women themselves. This article confirms that males and females are different, not only obviously when it comes to bearing children, but also when it comes to rearing them.

Turns out that chimpanzee kiddies learn much more from their mothers than from their fathers which – guess what! – pertains to you and me. Susan Pinker writes, “Human mothers also have a uniquely powerful effect on their children’s behavior. As mammals and primates, they take time to coach their young ones, who then copy what they do.” Pinker is quick to add that she’s “not discounting the importance of fathers, but that it looks like we belong to a large evolutionary family that learns enduring lessons at our mothers’ feet.”*

Oh dear. Wonder what the Paradigm for Parity will have to say about that. This is not to dismiss any such efforts. To the contrary, I mean it when I say I applaud them. But, for heaven’s sake, let’s stop kidding ourselves! Let’s stop denying that there are differences between women and men, particularly as they pertain to parenting, that necessarily similarly pertain to who wants desperately to lead and who wants somewhat less desperately to lead.

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*”Lessons from Chimp Mothers Last a Lifetime,” Wall Street Journal, December 10/11, 2016.

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