In my current role I’m surrounded by intelligent, funny and successful people. The fact I see them as colleagues rather than genders is entirely normal in my head. My MD’s gender (she has the Y chromosome) was, and is, irrelevant. Whether she is good at her job is far more important and as the company continues to succeed is testament to ability, not gender. Surely, we’re in an era where your chromosomes don’t affect your value to a company. Apparently not;
Now I’m officially old, my mid-life crisis has passed and I’ve no tattoo to show for it I think I’m fairly well qualified to dispute the myth that age or upbringing is a valid excuse. I’m also going to risk the wrath of the Daily Mail readers and say there is a place for ‘harmless banter’ but bluntly there is a clear line that should never be crossed in either direction. There’s been a fair amount of press recently about ‘bro culture’ in tech companies. Translating that for the UK audience it means we have too many people that behave like the façade that Jeremy Clarkson portrays. There’s a view that people of a certain generation won’t be able to change into an all encompassing sexual and human equality nirvana but I’m not so sure I agree. Blaming an era is a weak excuse, just as it is for racism, xenophobia and class snobbery.
I’ve posted before on my personal blog about Reeboks ‘This Girl Can’ strap line and I still admire the marketing that went with it. To differentiate performance whether personal or professional based on gender (or upbringing or anything else for that matter) is ridiculous. In a business, I’ve worked at large and small companies alike and casual sexism is still prevalent, in much the same way casual racism was until relatively recently. The issue isn’t one of age or class, it’s one of ignorance and blind tolerance. If you’ve ever stood by and ignored the comment that was derogatory in the workplace then you are as guilty as the person saying it. It’s very easy to say ‘sorry I didn’t mean it like that’ but that shouldn’t cut it.
I’m not espousing that we should all wear dungarees and have short haircuts and I phrase it like that to underline the point. This isn’t about over-compensating, this is about finding a balance. If you are a manager or leader (and you don’t have to be the former to be the latter) then you have a social and ethical responsibility to ensure your teams, colleagues and associates in all walks of life behave in a manner that is fitting for the 21st century.
I have the fortune work with some exceptional people and the successful relationships are those with people that believe in technology and the changes it can bring, irrespective of who comes up with it. You want proof? What have all the people below got in common apart from incredible success in tech?
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube
Tim Cook, Apple
Elon Musk, Tesla, Space X
James Dyson, Inventor
Meg Whitman, CEO, HP
Ginni Rometty, CEO, IBM
Angela Ahrendts, Senior VP, Apple
Safra Catz, Co-CEO, Oracle
Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO
Amy Hood, CFO, Microsoft
Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo
Gwynne Shotwell, COO, SpaceX
Lucy Peng cofounder of Alibaba
Sundar Pichai, Google
The answer? I’ve no idea, they’ve all done exceptionally well at leading our world wide technological advances and not one of them has been limited by age, race or gender. It’s time for Bro-Culture and casual sexism to be culled. Now, be a dear, go and put the kettle on.