Years ago, I was teaching a class in quality management when a student asked me about a situation they were dealing with – a supervisor in a department won’t work with my student on improvement programs.  After the situation was described, I said, “Let me guess, the supervisor is in his mid-to-late 50’s and has been in his position for at least 10 years?”  Shocked, my student said, “yes, how did you know?”

How did I know?  Because my student was a 20-something attractive woman and what she was describing was the typical reaction by a senior white male to a young female telling them what to do or what they were doing needed to change.

I had seen it before.  It’s discrimination – subtle but real.

I have worked with and for many women in my career.  I found them to be professional, intelligent, capable and hard-working.  They were also human meaning they had their follies, demons, strengths and successes.  It would likely take a therapist to understand why but I have been able to work with all the women, and men, that I have interacted with – to me, the mission always came first, the job must be done.

That’s not to say that is was all sweet and roses – I’ve had arguments and disagreements with almost everyone I’ve ever worked with because you don’t always agree on how the job must be done.  That’s natural and should never be the basis for how you treat someone.

Which is why I wonder about the second case involving my business partner in the week I was in Canada.  As I mentioned, a person approached me for mentoring on team dynamics, indicating some urgency, and I replied that I would be out of town, but Meredith could fill in while I was gone.  I had copied everyone involved on the email exchange.

The response was silence.

The professional thing would have been to reply and

  1. Accept the offer and work with Meredith,
  2. Beg off and wait, or
  3. Explain why they felt I was the only one and wait.

Why do I think there’s a hesitancy to work with Meredith?

Because we’re dealing with a senior white male and a young, confident, intelligent woman.  And I’ve seen the interaction between them before – the dynamics are clear.  The refusal to work with someone is discrimination.

I’ll discuss solutions in the next post.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.