In a coaching session the other day, a 58-year old second-generation Canadian male blurted out unequivocally that he prefers to work with men because women are petty and catty.
To be fair, he also stated that at least part of his prejudice stems from his age, from the fact that his wife is a full-time homemaker and he is the sole breadwinner, and that his ethnic origins are highly patriarchal.
I acknowledged his honesty and immediately spoke to pettiness and cattiness as dual-gender issues, with perhaps different workplace manifestations. He looked skeptical. Then, I brought up the names of a few accomplished women in business. He remained skeptical. Perhaps he doesn’t know who Heather Reisman or Bonnie Brooks are? Then, I turned my focus to his 12-year old daughter whom he adores and classifies as a diva. He absolutely expects her to get a university education and accomplish much. The tough guy buckled.
He realized in that moment, that he may need to make some changes to the way he thinks about the female gender. This includes his wife, his female staff, his daughter and maybe even his mother.
Although he and his wife married “later”, and she had their son at 43 and their daughter at 46, it appears he resented her for not wanting to return to paid employment. In fact, he went on to say he wished he’d married a woman who was far more ambitious and progressive. I responded that many of the women I know who worked their whole lives and had their children later, relished this special time so much, that they did not feel a need to return to work—especially if finances were not an issue. I should add that he makes $150K per year. He still expressed disappointment in his wife, but this time, took responsibility for his choice of wife. It went something like, “Well, I guess I should have picked another kind of woman.” To get a feel for her interests and personality, I asked if she did volunteer work in the community. To this, he proudly said “yes.”
So, as you can see, this is a chap who is filled with bias and regularly contradicts himself vis-à-vis women, girls and their roles and behaviours in society and at work. The bright spot is his tween daughter who is the only girl in the family, and whom he says is completely indulged and spoiled.
Realistically, do I believe that I can turn him around and get him to believe that nurturing a diva is going to work against her long-term? Honest answer, I don’t know yet as we’ve just begun working together. But I doubt it. He appears quite set in his ways.
What I can tell you is this: I was more than a little frustrated with him. He absolutely believes he’s a top-notch manager and enabler and fair to all staff—equally. Yet how could he be if by his own admission he’s anti-female? Further, his female staff must sense his consistent derision. Let’s face it. We all know when someone doesn’t like us or doesn’t want to work with us—for whatever reason(s).
My gut says this client is going to be one heckuva challenge, but I’m up for it. After all, every now and again, this non-petty, non-catty female educator loves to kick some chauvinistic male butt.