Helena Clayton | May: 3 Good Things



May: 3 Good Things

05 Jun 2018, Posted by Helena Clayton in Monthly Blog

A monthly post where I share what I’m doing, thinking about, learning from, and loving…

Women in Leadership

Much of my time this month has been either running a women’s leadership module or designing a different one that will run later in June.  There’s so much I could share from this experience but I’ll mention just a few things that have surprised me or I found interesting – have stuck with me and got me thinking – for a range of different reasons:

  • Professor Kathleen O’Connor presented research that shocked our group of women. They found it fascinating to compare their own lived experience with what the data said about, as one example, the Warmth/Competence polarity. And the findings that both men and women judge each other by the same rule – which is that we look for competence in a ‘typical’ man but warmth in a ‘typical’ woman (there’s data behind that ‘typical’ and it’s interesting – Kathleen can give you more on it)
  • The very senior woman in an international bank I spoke to as part of some diagnostic conversations who said: ‘now that I’m 57 and not as attractive as I once was, men treat me differently, and it’s better – they know how to be around me without being fearful of being considered sexist or offensive and so they can be more straight talking like they are with other men’. I heard this same thing again later that week. It would make for an interesting conversation between men and women, don’t you think?
  • The 10 out of 11 senior women in one of the most male-dominated and gendered organisations I have ever worked with who said ‘being a woman has never hampered my career’. I’m still pondering my reaction to this one. Especially after reading Laura Bates’s latest book, Mysogynation: the True Scale of Sexism (a powerful read but I need a strong stomach for it and can only manage a few chapters at a time).
  • Out of a group of 30 women, only one did yoga. For some reason, that really did surprise me … a symptom of my own little echo chamber, I guess. But we also did a day-long session on embodied/somatic practices and this was all very new to them too. A reminder that the more we can help leaders experience that our bodies are more than just something to carry our heads around from meeting to meeting, the better!
  • I find myself feeling a mix of angry, despairing and hopeful at a lot of what I see and hear. And so sometimes, I just need to watch some mindless TV as an antidote 😊

Unconscious Bias

When a black colleague I was working with recently – developing a new strategic/purpose statement for an organisation – said that the use of the word ‘belonging’ was problematic because of its connotations with slavery and ownership, I realised that I knew nothing.

What to do? Well, we know that unconscious bias training doesn’t change things because the stereotypes that we hold are too pervasive and subtle to eliminate. Instead – and the group heard this from Kathleen O’Connor’s research too – we need to rig the system by making it ‘blind’. We can strip out the gendered language in job specs, for example using specialist software.

And you know the example of the orchestra who, when they selected new members did so by only listening to them play their instrument from behind a screen, lo and behold, they ended up appointing more women than previously.

But raising awareness of our biases can still only be a good thing, IMHO. I’ve heard really good things about the National Coalition Building Institute and their work on raising awareness of unconscious bias and so that’s where you’ll find me on 4 July. As a middle class western white person, I think I’ll learn a lot because I have a lot to learn. Come and join me?

And a book on Supervision

This month, with a colleague at Mayvin, I started working with an OD team within the Civil Service, providing external supervision for their OD practice.   There’s something so good about giving people space to talk about what they do, why they do it and how they do it. That sort of reflective practice is woefully missing in much of our work and it’s a brave and enlightened organisation that holds firm boundaries – and protects a budget – for it. It matters – and it makes a difference. A book that helped me get in the right head space for it was Peter Hawkins’s Supervision in the Helping Professions, which I’d recommend for any reflective practitioner out there.

So have a great June and I’ll catch up with you at the end of it. I have a week by the sea for the last week of the month – my reading pile is already stacking up in readiness 🙂

In the meantime, you can always find me on Twitter @HelenaClayton should you fancy, and please do share this post if you think others in your network might be interested. And here’s April and March, if you want to see more of what I’ve been sharing recently.

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