Jan 20

Mr. Shirky, Why Don’t You Act More Like a Woman?

I was a bit dismayed reading Clay Shirky’s A Rant About Women. It’s a long post, but in sum, he feels women do not advance because we aren’t willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get to the top. We don’t overinflate our abilities. And we need to because we have no role models to stick up for us.

Really? Should I want that? As a consumer, do you like dealing with people like that? Do you like bosses like that?

Would you rather this post be some self-fellating post about why I’m right and you are wrong, or would you rather just let my arguments speak for themselves?

I like that many women admit what they know and what they don’t know. I like that most whistle-blowers are women. My favorite co-workers tend to be women who can set aside ego for a mission. There are certainly men like this as well, and I dig them too. They get things done.

I’m not sure why you are going off on a rant about this. If you don’t think your male student deserves the glowing recommendation he has the gumption to ask of you, don’t give it to him. If you stop rewarding this behavior, your students stop behaving this way. It’s a pretty simple equation. By doing so, you will be protecting that student from going out in the real world and getting creamed by someone who will tear them to shreds for being all puff and no substance, or wreaking serious havoc on a company because of incompetence.

I don’t want to be a huge self-promoter. I want to impact positive change and find satisfaction in my work. I promote myself only in that it helps me achieve this. You can find my work here and here. It speaks for itself.

Maybe your rant should be about how people reward shameless self-promoters who tend to be men instead of people who would rather focus on doing a good job than lying, cheating and stealing our way to the top. It could be about how the promotion of self-promoters is dangerous and that we should stop it. You want a solution to your rant–do these solutions work well enough for you?

Love your work. Just trying to help.

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  • http://www.sheilasguide.com Sheila Scarborough

    Yeah, OK, so I get it that guys dominate the world, and I get it that figuring out how to play their game can be helpful to me, but why is the answer ALWAYS to “play it their way?”

    How about let’s do it another way, hmmm? Because I’m going to figure out how to do it my way eventually, and then you can bet I’ll take my ball and leave if I don’t like your game.

    I’ll take my ball to another field and start a better game.

    Let’s deal, guys.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Michelle!
    .-= Sheila Scarborough´s last blog ..Ideas for a travel and tourism Web site overhaul =-.

  • http://michellesblog.net Michelle

    @sheila, thanks for your input. I read Shirky’s post and thought of the implications of everyone thinking they need to be shameless promoters to get ahead. It did not sit with me well.

    Also, I think he fails to see that if we act this way, we tend to fall under a lot more scrutiny than men do. My only recourse ends up being “whisper your idea in a guy’s ear and then he’ll shamelessly promote it”. It makes me sad.

    I can’t say I know what the answer is. I do think it is something women need to address in a civil manner though.

  • http://SocialMediaIsMyMiddleName.com Scott Allen

    In reading Clay’s post and your response, the biggest question raised for me is WHY are so many men like that?

    I don’t think it’s genetic. I think that it’s perhaps somehow tied up in the traditional gender role of male as provider and female as the provided for, and the caretaker of the home.

    As a man/husband/father and the primary provider in my home, I do feel very strong pressure to do whatever it takes to provide for my family in the best way possible, even if that has, on occasion, meant stretching my personal ethical boundaries (true confession). My wife doesn’t feel that. Yes, she works too, but she knows she’s always going to be cared for — by me, by her brother, by her father. She doesn’t feel the “survival” pressure in the same way I do.

    Also, I think the traditional gender roles encourage optimism more among men and realism (not pessimism) among women. A hunter has to be an optimist. He goes out every day with the assumption that he’s going to make a kill. If he can’t do that, he won’t be a successful hunter. The woman, on the other hand, has to assume that the man might NOT make a kill, and allocate resources accordingly to ensure the survival of the family and the tribe.

    How does optimism vs. realism come into play? I think that’s a major part of that willingness to exaggerate one’s own capabilities. I have a strong belief — based on previous experience — that if I can get “in”, I can do the job. I’m reluctant to let someone else’s hang-up about, say, me having X years of experience with this or that, or seeing me as more “marketing” than “technical” get in the way of that.

    I’m not trying to justify the behavior, just to understand it a little better. We certainly have in so many ways moved on beyond our prehistoric gender roles, but there are vestigial remnants too. Perhaps by acknowledging them, we can more easily move beyond them.

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  • http://www.rwhq.wordpress.com yuri

    Don’t make the same anecdotal mistake with the ‘tend to’ offerings. Otherwise I pretty much agree. One might consider that men and women spend a huge amount of time trying to figure out how to change what they are currently doing to be more effective, and that’s obviously not a gender based decision. Shirky misses the point completely by assuming that there is a monolithic strategy that men follow and that (if it did exist) it would be the right path to follow. Lying and cheating isn’t an inherent male trait, but it is one rife with short term thinking that men AND women should avoid.

  • http://michellesblog.net Michelle

    @scott, your theories make sense. I just hope that more men in the workplace understand the merits of both ways.

    In Shirky’s situation, I have no idea why he would so easily submit to what the student wants. I would think he’d take his name a little bit more seriously than that.

    A penchant for risk-taking has its advantages, but humility should definitely have a place in our society.