Should You Pour The Tea?

min read
Should You Pour The Tea?

"Will you be mom?" was a frequent request in my early boardroom days. Not to mention, "will you take the notes?"

Not sure why, but while the notes just bothered me a little, the tea request drove me crazy.

The advent of coffee machines and tablets has largely done away with those two, but my discussions with many women who are sitting on boards and excos today tells me that there is still a way to go for women to feel fully included.

Gender jokes, swearing and male exclusive activities are some of the not so subtle ways that women mention. Should you laugh at the jokes, accept the c word as a standard and take up deep sea fishing?

And if you don't, should you feel guilty about curbing their natural behaviour when you are around, which you are worried they will use as an excuse for further exclusion?

In other words, they are much more relaxed and themselves when you are not there, so do you accept things that make you uncomfortable in order to fit in.

Not so easy, and, adding to that, do you and your fellow female execs male bash when its "just the girls"? Or if you are a predominantly women exec group, do you regularly have conversations that would make the average man run for the trees?

Equal opportunity gender discrimination.....

Retaining your sense of humour while ensuring that you are not made to feel constantly uncomfortable is a real challenge. I have tried both, and found it was like the frog in the water1, if you didn't say anything, there was a fast plummet into serious lavatorial humour, and if you did, there was an equally fast freeze out.

At this point, I would like to share that I have (and currently still do), worked with the most amazing gender sensitive men, who have never made me feel anything other than a fully contributing business colleague. They, and there are lots, have been mentors, partners and coaches that I appreciate every day.

Is there a way that takes the emotion out of it, and moves gender issues forward in a positive and constructive way? There is statistical information which clearly indicates that including women in top management and executive positions has a positive impact on the bottom line.

In South Africa, there is an interesting initiative that is talking about embracing gender mainstreaming and putting it forward as a key way to start making the changes. Colleen Larsen (@collarsen) is running workshops on the topic during July. What is it? Its a methodology that encourages men and women to work together to effect change. If you want to find out more, contact Colleen or let me know so that I can point you in the right direction.

The original question about pouring the tea still stands, though? Should you? or its 2014 equivalent...

Links, References and Notes

Boiling frog
Business Engage