Shine Your Crazy Light
For the past year and a half, I have worked closely with a dear friend and a woman who inspires me to do better and be better, her name is Mila Padgett. She also cuts through any bull**** and tells me what I need to hear as well as supports and challenges me.
About five years ago, we started presenting at conferences regarding the concept of superwoman syndrome and that lead us to develop a research study to interview women in our field – campus recreation. By the end of this week, we will have interviewed close to 40 women ranging from the ages of 20 to 70. I am excited as we begin to wrap up our interviews. We are conducting a few this Friday, March 8, International Women’s Day.
We will begin analyzing our data in April and throughout the summer. With any qualitative research, one must acknowledge their own bias as the person interviewing participants in a study. The term for this is reflexivity. Reflexivity is being aware of your own assumptions as the researcher who is responsible for constructing the study and asking the questions. My colleague and I selected the Leadership Labyrinth as the framework to use to assist us in interpreting the data. It is important to have a framework to provide a clear orientation and approach for the study. This will assist us in any bias or perception that we may bring to the study as we analyze the data by reflecting on our own experiences as women in our personal and professional life and how our experiences may lead to certain assumptions we make about a woman’s experience in the work place. We must take into consideration the intersections of identities that we bring into the study as well as giving voice to various identities held by the women we interview.
As we finish up with our interviews this week I would like to share, a couple of concepts to have us think a bit deeper about a woman’s experience. One piece I continuously reflect on personally as I listen to women we interview is learning more about the seesaw effect of women balancing (however they select to do this) being agentic versus communal and the double bind (the double standard). Here is a brief summary for each concept.
Agentic versus Communal
Around the globe, there is an expectation for men to be agentic (assertive, dominant, competent, and authoritative) and women to be communal (warm, supportive, kind, and helpful) (Carli & Eagly, 2018). We expect men to be more agentic then communal, and because of this, many people believe that those who lead must be agentic and cannot be communal, wait what? Think about that for a few minutes. I mean if I think about people I work with, men and women I see many of them being both agentic and communal. However, if we know that most people will not perceive us a certain way, how does this influence how we might select to not be our authentic self in certain situations. Let’s be real it’s determining if I should be perceived as a b**** or as the person who brings the cupcakes.
Why not have the opportunity to be both? Can women be both agentic and communal? And how does the narrative of leader and leadership need to evolve that it is not one or the other? And is there a specific leadership type based on gender?
Because of facing the double bind, women experience a double standard. A woman is confronted with two choices of action creating a seesaw effect for how to respond. Research suggests that in many circumstances women must display more skill than men to be considered competent. This is only the surface; the double standard is compounded by cultural stereotypes regarding race and ethnicity (Carli & Eagly, 2018). In addition, the intersectionality of a woman’s identity needs additional research. There are many studies; one of the chapters below is a good starting point. However, even if we think of the various organizational structures, there is much for us to do to better understand implications for how women select certain jobs and potential leadership roles.
Imagine that you had to make the case for a woman in your life (personal or professional connection) who holds a position of authority to male counterparts or is getting ready to take on a new leadership position. What would you say to the woman about her new role? What dialogue would you have with your male counterparts about the woman who daily faces challenges see sawing back and forth with the double bind?
Some days as a woman you might feel crazy trying to figure out the best position to place yourself on the seesaw (which can make us feel crazy, right?). Have you ever had someone call you a crazy woman? I think many of us would say yes, I know I have.
Meriam-Webster dictionary defines crazy as not mentally sound; marked by thought or action that lacks reason. Perhaps it is not that the woman is lacking reason, she is not meeting our expectation for how we believe she should behave as a woman.
Many times growing up women are called crazy and it is typically a negative response. After seeing the Nike commercial with Serena Williams narrating last week I realized we (men and women) need to be intentional about changing the narrative of what it means to be a crazy woman. In honor of International Women’s Day today, March 8, 2019, I hope to inspire more and more women to be crazy, you know your crazy better than anyone else does: Be your authentically crazy self.
A crazy light can shine by:
“It’s okay to be crazy and scared and brave at the same time” - Kelly Epperson
Carli, L.L. & Eagly, A.H. (2018). Leadership and gender. In the nature of leadership. Eds. J. Antonakis and D. Day. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Eagly, A.H. & Carli, L.L. (2007). Women and the labyrinth of leadership. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2007/09/women-and-the-labyrinth-of-leadership