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First, I want to say that I love your shows and all of the great content that you put out. I am a long time listener.

However, I want to voice a concern of mine. In just about every podcast, any time you mention a term for a manager, you always use "her" or "she". This goes against the grain of what is most commonly used "he" and "him". What started as a small annoyance is now sticking out like a sore thumb.

By always referring to a manager as a "she" in your podcasts, you overly compensate and it's worse than just saying "he", like most do.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

Interesting. I'd noticed that M&M do refer to managers as 'she' on occasions (and 'he' on others) but I'd got the impression that it was around 50:50 she:he. Maybe they're looking forward to the day when it's one's ability to do a job that gets someone the job, gender is no longer a factor.

It is true that there is a dearth of women in management positions and the further up the management structure you get the fewer women there seem to be. I see that as the issue, not whether M&M refer to a hypothetical manager as he or she.

Stephen

agreen's picture

I would have to disagree with you longtimelistener. The use of he/she in the MT podcasts is one thing that I noticed early on listening and is something that I think is a real positive. To my ear it is done very naturally and does not "overly compensate".

Both of my current directs are women moving into management for the first time. In the past they have commented on the imbalance in our organisation and the male dominated culture. MT is the only resource I have come across where the balance is right. I think an indication of how well and seamlessly M&M do deal with this issue is that it has taken this long to come up in the forums!

BJ_Marshall's picture

It's interesting to note that English does not really have a functional word for the third-person singular gender-neutral personal pronoun (him/her).

I listen to Grammar Girl's podcast, and she recently had a 'cast about [url=http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-yo-pronoun.aspx]using "yo" as a pronoun[/url]. It seems that school children in Baltimore, MD, USA are using "yo" as the gender-neutral singular personal pronoun.

I suppose M&M could start describing actionable techniques to help the motivated manager become more effective with yo directs.

BJ

arun's picture

To me whether a manager is referred to as he/she is irrelevant in this context. The focus IMO should be on the content/learning within the podcast rather than on something as inconsequential as a term of reference.

Kind of dilutes the good work M&M are doing for this community

Just my 2c

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="wmarsha1"]It's interesting to note that English does not really have a functional word for the third-person singular gender-neutral personal pronoun (him/her).[/quote]

Many, many years ago (late 1989 to be precise) I studied a short course in Feminism, as part of my cross-board requirements at university. One of the things I remember from the course was an article that proposed 'te' and 'ter' as gender neutral alternatives to she/he and his/her, deriving from the word 'they'. Never really took off and no-one on the course (I was the only male student) was really comfortable with it.

Stephen

HMac's picture

[quote="longtimelistener"]
By always referring to a manager as a "she" in your podcasts, you overly compensate and it's worse than just saying "he", like most do.[/quote]

"Always?" I don't think so. Longetimelistener: listen again. I think you're only hearing the "she's" and you're not hearing all the "he's."

It's always seemed pretty balanced to me...and I'd be willing to bet that a) it's PLANNED (this is Mark and Mike after all), and b) it's intended to be close to a 50/50 split.

-Hugh

TomW's picture

As Mark calls it, a compli-but!

HMac's picture

Tom - a "complihowever"?
-Hugh

kklogic's picture

[quote="longtimelistener"]This goes against the grain of what is most commonly used "he" and "him". What started as a small annoyance is now sticking out like a sore thumb.

By always referring to a manager as a "she" in your podcasts, you overly compensate and it's worse than just saying "he", like most do.[/quote]

The careful pronoun usage is something I picked up on the first time I heard a 'cast as well -- and it seems evenly divided to me.

We women find it equally a "small annoyance" that "he" is commonly considered to be the go-to gender when discussing a manager. :) Since I have to experience this 24/7, I find it refreshing that M&M have chosen to split it between the genders in an even manner.

I respectfully submit that your ears are used to "he" being the norm, and therefore the "she" stands out moreso than it probably should.

jhack's picture

Mark and Mike's use of both pronouns is balanced and appropriate.

You've been poked by an umbrella...

John

thaGUma's picture

Mark is completely correct in alternating 'she' and 'he'. Mark does it well and consistantly. My annoyance comes when genders are swapped mid-chapter. Not something of which Mark is guilty.

bflynn's picture

Perhaps it is appropriate and necessary.

However, in my opinion the podcasts are slightly less effective because of the distraction factor. Every time it happens, I miss a few seconds while I process "her" or "she" and remember that they're working to be balanced.

I don't like the distraction. But its a relatively minor thing. I can't even classify it as a problem or an issue.

Brian

tcomeau's picture

I think it's interesting, and perhaps should be alarming, to find feminine-pronoun managers distracting. If you're comfortable with the notion of women in leadership roles, the pronoun wouldn't matter.

No country in the world treats its women as well as it treats men. The United States does fairly well, and a few countries do better. I have a view about why the US can't make more progress, and I still think it's helpful to talk more, not less, about women in leadership roles. I think it is important to include, perhaps over-include, women as examples of managers.

(I also think it critical to include, even over-include, men as examples of effective parents. It is at least as discouraging that men are regarded as ineffective nurturers. But that's another story altogether.)

So I encourage the 'over use' of "When your manager does that, she..." any time we're talking about a generic manager. When you write or talk about a specific manager, please do use the correct pronoun.

If you find it distracting, reflect on why it distracts you. I don't believe it's the podcast that needs adjusting.

tc>

kklogic's picture

Wow, Tom. Per the norm, VERY well stated. Kudos.

bflynn's picture

[quote="tcomeau"]I think it's interesting, and perhaps should be alarming, to find feminine-pronoun managers distracting.

...

If you find it distracting, reflect on why it distracts you. I don't believe it's the podcast that needs adjusting.
[/quote]

Tom, I understand where you're leading that and there is no reason for alarm on anyone's part

The simple situation is that 99% of the world does it another way. Without judgement of right or wrong, this is [i]different[/i]. It is the difference that is distracting because it highlights that you're making a conscience choice to try to be neutral.

For this reason, I tend to use a non-personal pronoun, such as You or They for speaking about a non-specific person. If I am speaking about a specific individual, I use He or She as appropriate.

Brian

tcomeau's picture

[quote="stephenbooth_uk"]...
Many, many years ago (late 1989 to be precise) I studied a short course in Feminism, as part of my cross-board requirements at university. One of the things I remember from the course was an article that proposed 'te' and 'ter' as gender neutral alternatives to she/he and his/her, deriving from the word 'they'. [/quote]

Ursula K. Le Guin's [i]The Left Hand of Darkness[/i] uses those impersonal pronouns for people who spend time without a sexual gender for parts of their lives. It's an interesting contrast to see how a society behaves in the absence of sexual tension.

It also has one of those great opening sentences.
[quote="Le Guin"]
I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.
[/quote]

tc>

tcomeau's picture

[quote="bflynn"]
The simple situation is that 99% of the world does it another way. Without judgement of right or wrong, this is [i]different[/i]. [/quote]

Ah. I understand your point. You are right, I am making a judgement.

Management is overwhelmingly viewed as a masculine activity. Thus the pronoun selected by default is "he." My considered judgement is that this is fundamentally wrong. It is so wrong that, despite being among the 1%, I believe the world has to change.

The business world certainly needs to change, starting right here, right now. I want you to be distracted. At first that distraction will be "Why does he keep saying 'she'?" After a while the distraction will be "Why aren't there more women in these management meetings?" Hopefully you'll get to the point that the distraction will be "Why does Mark take those big breaths when he's done talking?"

Ghandi said "We must become the change we want to see in the world." We need more women in management, if only to have a larger pool from which to draw senior managers.

Mark, Mike: Please keep distracting me!

tc>

agreen's picture

Tom, I agree with kklogic - well argued and much better articulated than I could.

I thought I would share another aspect of discrimination the power of questioning the validity of it "just being that the way it is".

In Australia around 7% of the population is indigenous - claim full or part Aboriginal Heritage.

1.3% of the public service have Aboriginal Heritage, a serious under representation of the general community. It is well documented that Aboriginal Australians on average have lower educational indicators (and health and life expectancy indicators), and you could logically assume that in a merit based system they would be under represented in all sectors of the workforce. This leads to continuing systemic disadvantage in all aspects of society.

In some small way to address this our organisation has set a target of 14% designated indigenous positions. Under our equal opportunity laws this is permissible for indigenous positions.

My boss in a previous position worked with local Aboriginal elders and set a bulk recruitment of 7 entry positions in a local work division. He also set about offering this sort of opportunity every 1-2 years. The result was dramatic. The elders went back to the community and particularly the teenagers nearing the end of high school and said "The opportunity is there, but you have to work for it."

In two years the local high school went from averaging under 5 Aboriginal high school graduates to over 50! Suddenly there was an avenue for change for these kids, they made the link and grabbed at it. (A fine example of giving feedback and seeing a behaviour change! MT principles being applied in all their glory). The impact this change will have on the 7 who got the job, the other 40 or so who finished high school and have much better employment prospects, the local indigenous community and broader community is profound. I spoke with the local elder one night about this program the pride with which he spoke about it was stunning.

Our organisation is also much richer for it. I look forward to the day when these individuals move up and I am working with and for them in higher level management positions.

Same principles can and do apply to the gender issue. To quote Tom, quoting Ghandi "We must become the change we want to see in the world."

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="agreen"]It is well documented that Aboriginal Australians on average have lower educational indicators (and health and life expectancy indicators)[/quote]

I forget the source but I remember reading that there has been shown to be a correlation between educational attainment, health and longevity. In general the higher your educational attainment the less illness you will have, the better your health will be (good health is not just the absence of illness) and the longer you will live.

This is one of the many reasons I push life long learning in my workplace.

Congratulations on changing the status quo and helping people see the value of education.

Stephen

tcomeau's picture
mikehansen's picture

Women are considered to be the minority in holding leadership positions in the corporate world. If you use “he”, I believe it is a neutral to negative perception to the female listeners and neutral to male listeners.

If you use “she”, it is neutral to positive for female listeners. I am surprised that there are any male listeners who take this as a negative, but then, who doesn’t like surprises :)

So, my recommendation is 1) continue to use “she” and 2) focus our energies on the actionable message of the podcast rather than the pronoun used.

Ps. My current and prior bosses are both women. 3/7 of the managers on my team are women. Did I mention I work in IT?

Enjoy,
Mike

terrih's picture

Of course, if we all spoke Mandarin Chinese we wouldn't be having this discussion... the 3rd person pronoun is "ta" regardless of gender.

:wink: 8)

ramiska's picture

My two cents...

The use of "she" rather than "he" sounds different, not because it is the norm to have men in the position of power but because in grade school we were taught that when the subject is of undetermined gender, use the masculine. That's the rule I was taught.

That said... The world has changed and we need to embrace greater balance. I am hopeful that someday we can introduce a 3rd person singular to the language that will include the undetermined gender. It's taxing to say "he or she" and "his or her" every time. Most people I know simply use the 3rd person plural "they" when they can.

What I find odd is that this seems to me (and I am probably wrong here) to be an english-speaker's dilemma. Do speakers of latin-based languages, where every noun is ascribed a gender, face problems of perceived sexism in their language? Is this a conversation in Spain, France, or Italy?

terrih's picture

[quote="ramiska"]Most people I know simply use the 3rd person plural "they" when they can.[/quote]

Many, many moons ago I read a column by [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lederer]Richard Lederer[/url] coming out in favor of "they" as the singular as well as plural 3rd person pronoun... and he convinced me. His argument is a descriptivist position: that's the way English speakers (at least in America) are naturally going, in response to the awkwardness of "he/she" et al.

I've used it that way in my writing ever since, and 90% of the time no one seems to notice. :twisted:

trandell's picture

longtime: My input is whether your are a he or a she manging one or more hes and shes, focus on your own education and performance by learning from this community, rather than worrying about how Mark & Mike choose to give their countless hours of heartfelt and free advice.

I've met both Mark and Mike and I can tell you these are two of the most caring, thoughtful and sensible people (not just men) I have ever known. They are not out to surreptitiously push any gender-related agenda.

juliahhavener's picture

Well said, Tom.

I recall very early on being impressed by the even usage of the he/she pronouns. It is 'common' thought that the men are managers and 'he' is the common pronoun in use in corporate America in this realm. It is not necessarily the 'right' pronoun.

It would be nice if we had a lovely little gender-neutral pronoun...but the English language does not have one (and my women's studies history says it is highly unlikely we ever will because of cultural identity issues). Be that as it may - it's refreshing to hear managers to referred to as BOTH sexes, in all their glory, their humility, their grace, and their falls.

I'd feel differently if it were all references, but I believe that M&M have struck as nice balance on this one.

AManagerTool's picture

[quote="stephenbooth_uk"][quote="agreen"]It is well documented that Aboriginal Australians on average have lower educational indicators (and health and life expectancy indicators)[/quote]

I forget the source but I remember reading that there has been shown to be a correlation between educational attainment, health and longevity. In general the higher your educational attainment the less illness you will have, the better your health will be (good health is not just the absence of illness) and the longer you will live.

This is one of the many reasons I push life long learning in my workplace.

Congratulations on changing the status quo and helping people see the value of education.

Stephen[/quote]

[b]cum hoc ergo propter hoc[/b]

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="AManagerTool"][b]cum hoc ergo propter hoc[/b][/quote]

You doubt the correlation?

Stephen

kklogic's picture

I would argue that you tend to reach higher education because of the environment you were brought up in --- therefore, the statistic is skewed. Higher education alone doesn't GIVE you greater health and longevity.

Did you know that Ohio has the greatest percentage of native Ohioans in the country? :)

US41's picture

I would love a podcast with a guest speaker on who is female. She could give men advice on how to succeed with a female manager. There is a different dynamic there.

jhack's picture

That is a great idea!

And she might also provide advice to the women listeners on how to handle their unique challenges.

John

AManagerTool's picture

[quote="stephenbooth_uk"][quote="AManagerTool"][b]cum hoc ergo propter hoc[/b][/quote]

You doubt the correlation?

Stephen[/quote]

I'm sorry Stephen. I think that your point is valid. Education should be encouraged for many reasons. It was the implication of a causal relationship between education and health that bothered me a bit and I overlooked the point you were trying to make. Bad listening skills!

[quote]From With Good Reason by S. Morris Engel, Fifth Edition p. 165:

“ More and more young people are attending high schools and colleges today than ever before. Yet there is more juvenile delinquency and more alienation among the young. This makes it clear that these young people are being corrupted by their education. ” [/quote]

I don't doubt the correlation at all. I doubt the causation. This is a common logic trap that I run into all the time. I work with scientists and many times I help analyze data from studies. Frequently, we do the same thing and I guess that I have developed an ear for it. When I hear the cum hoc ergo propter hoc logic trap, my mouth starts moving and my fingers start typing before my brain starts working.

That's my bad and I apologize.

jhack's picture

I call it "crediting the rooster for the dawn."

John

AManagerTool's picture

Totally off topic but Mark told me at the conference that his rooster problems have been eliminated. I guess we can close the "find the rooster in the podcast thread"...LOL

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="AManagerTool"]Totally off topic but Mark told me at the conference that his rooster problems have been eliminated. I guess we can close the "find the rooster in the podcast thread"...LOL[/quote]

Nah..there were roosters crowing in a few other casts too. We just didn't bring it up in the forums. I think Mark's rooster stories are hilarious even though he gets frustrated.