Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Gender and Leadership

Gender and leadership from librarianjessica

This post is a lot longer than what I normally published, but both Michelle Millet and I wanted to make our presentation as available as possible. We've been told that the recording of the webinar (of which our presentation was only part) will be made available and I'll update this post with a link when it is. Also, this post is identical to one that will be published on my presentation partner’s blog, Boss Lady Writes.

Slide 1:
[This slide was up while we were being introduced.]

Slide 2:
JO: We want to give you faces to put with the names, so... Hi, I’m Jessica Olin. I’m the Director of Library Services at Wesley College, a small liberal arts college in Dover, Delaware.

MM: I’m Michelle Millet. I’m the Director of the Grasselli Library and Breen Learning Center at John Carroll University, a Jesuit liberal arts college in the Cleveland, OH suburbs.

JO: And we’re pleased to meet you.

Slide 3:
JO: So, I wanted to explain my path to library administration because it informs what we’re saying today. Although it’s my first actual career, I came to librarianship a little bit later than you might expect. I was in my early thirties by the time I got my first job in libraries and it was while I was still at that first gig that I got a taste of library administration. I ended up substituting on some campus committees for the director while she was out on maternity leave. And I have to tell you, I hated it. It wasn’t the added responsibilities. It was the obviously gendered behavior I saw. I remember this one meeting, where I was the only person not a man, and I made a suggestion. I was completely ignored until one of the men - who was a friend of mine outside the committee - spoke up for me. I don’t take kindly to being ignored, even now, and I hadn’t run into that behavior inside the library. That’s when I swore I’d never be a director. Flash forward about 5 years to when I learned about the disproportionate gender ratio in academic library administration. Even though men are only 20 to 25% of the profession, they make up 40 to 50% of administration. I’d had a lot more experience being ignored and speaking up for myself by that point. I was at a different college and had served on a lot more campus wide committees where it seemed de rigueur to ignore everyone not cismale and white. So when someone I admired suggested I would be a good library director, I was willing to consider it. I floated the idea of moving up into administration to my then director (a man who is still my mentor and who has become a friend), and he encouraged me. And here I am, more than three years into my first director job where to nobody’s surprise, I’ve dealt with gendered expectations. Anyway, that’s me in a nutshell.

Slide 4:
MM: I was pretty hesitant to get into management. I had a variety of deans and directors in my career, including strong women. I saw for myself that they weren’t treated the same way that the very strong man that I worked for was. Very early on in my career, I was told I was going to have to “reel it in.” Personally, I thought there was enough disrespect for me as a librarian (the idea that we’re not “real” faculty) that I didn’t really want to deal with that at even a higher level. But, after I got into middle management, I realized I could do this management thing and what I loved about it was encouraging people to do their best work. I’ve had to speak up for myself and for my staff a lot. Sometimes I feel like I’m not vocal enough but sometimes I also know that I can’t say certain things because I won’t be heard over the men in the room. It’s just reality. I try to model better behavior as a leader myself, which is all that I have the power to do. I also feel very strongly about perceptions of women as leaders and the expectations of me as a mother. I have two kids at home. I do not want to be the mom at work, even though I think that’s what is expected (or was when I was new).

Slide 5:
JO: We were invited to be part of this webinar because of an article we wrote, and we’ll talk more about that later, but we wanted to give you a head’s up about what we will and won’t be covering today. As you might have gathered from the title of this talk, we’re going to talk about gender and leadership and management. We’re also going to talk about the article, which is why that hashtag has been included. But we’re not going to talk about salary, except maybe as part of something else, like during a Q&A. There was information about salary with regards to gender, but we didn’t really touch on it in our essay - although I think it’s come up during our Twitter conversations.

Slide 6:
JO: I don’t remember the specifics, but sometime last year Michelle said something on Twitter that let me know she’d run into gendered expectations. So I shared some of my own experiences and suggested we write something about it.

MM: I think it took us some time to figure out what form this conversation was going to take for us. We kicked the idea around of a book of essays, but decided that an article in Lead Pipe would get the conversation started faster.

Slide 7:
JO: So that brings us to the article. We wrote this article in part for catharsis. It felt good to put our experiences into words and we wanted to do something to lessen or prevent others from having the same messed up experiences. We felt vindicated to see our preliminary assumptions echoed in the literature of multiple fields. But also, to be completely honest, we both had moments of doubt and of worry as we worked on this piece. We were scared that being this honest would come back to bite us.

MM: We were both pretty nervous the day it was published. (Which says something already, doesn’t it?)

Slide 8:
JO: So why did we write it anyway? Because we were angry. We were angry that these problems weren’t just ours. We were angry that even in a field that is seen as traditionally female, leaders who aren’t stereotypical cisgendered male and white are treated poorly. Also, like we’ve already said, we wanted to turn that anger into something useful.

Slide 9:
MM: So what did we learn? When we started doing research on this “gendered expectations” we were both floored at how MUCH was out there (in psychology literature, business literature, even in library literature). So, it seemed like to us like we’ve been talking about this in libraries forever but no one was DOING anything about it.

JO: Particularly infuriating was how it cuts both ways. Women are treated like two-headed alien things when we take charge, but also men are elevated and respected and followed even when they aren’t in charge and even when there is a woman who is in charge.

MM: So we partially wanted to put THAT out there. We’re talking and talking and talking. Let’s get angry together. Let’s break the system. Let’s get this out in front of everyone’s faces and make people uncomfortable. Even more infuriating and yet vindicating was how much we saw and heard our experiences reflected back when we spoke with colleagues and friends. Being told to be nicer; one woman told us she’d been told to “be soft, but not be too soft;” being expected to take notes at meetings - even when we were running them; being held to a completely different standard of behavior than male counterparts… these were all unbelievably common.

Slide 10:
MM: We don’t want to bore you by reading these aloud, but we really wanted to share some of the quotes we shared in the article. Infuriating, really, the stories we’ve been told.

Slide 11:
JO: And we left plenty out, especially from our own experiences. So many stories we heard or could tell for ourselves of being cut down or held back or thrown under the bus. So many times women are the ones treating us this way, which somehow hurts more than when it’s a man.

MM: We were both hoping the article would be a starting point.

JO: I know I wanted to take the bad and turn it into something good. After all I’d gone through, I wanted to make something to prevent or at least lessen what others would have to go through.

MM: Me too. As a leader, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t encouraging these stereotypes with people I managed. I really gained such empathy for my past library directors, especially strong women, because now I knew what they must have gone through.

JO: And we were both astonished to see this article that we wrote out of anger at the system and frustration with the status quo become something bigger. And it keeps moving forward.

Slide 13:
JO: This started because of social media connections, so it makes sense that’s where we’d continue to grow the most.

MM: We started the #libleadgender Twitter chats shortly after the article came out. The first was about the article. Then we’ve had people volunteering to host others about every two weeks or so. The next one is for May 3 at 3pm EDT and will be about feminist management and leadership and we’d love to see you there. We also had a meet up, based really on the people who were chatting on Twitter, at ALA Midwinter in Boston that was pretty great. It was great to put names to faces.

JO: We’re hoping to find other ways to grow online. We know this is resonating, and we believe it’s helping and we want to continue to help.

Slide 14:
MM: We’re trying to push further as well. We offered to pair people up as peer mentors and did get a couple of people to take us up on a formal pairing, but we’ve also been informally peer mentoring each other as a group.

JO: We also hope to have a panel session at ACRL 2017 in Baltimore. I submitted it a couple of weeks ago.
MM: But really, it’s all about supporting each other.

Slide 15:
JO: I don’t think it was a mistake, but more a regret. I really wish the article could have been longer. Michelle and I have very similar perspectives on this field, and we can’t speak to the experiences of minority women or genderqueer library leaders or disabled people and or others. Our experiences might be common, but they are not the only experiences to be considered.

MM: I wish I had more time and energy to devote to furthering the conversation.

Slide 16:
JO: We’ve already talked about our immediate plans, about twitter chats and in person conversations. But I want to see other people talking about it. This article was a call to action, and action is still needed.

MM: We want to keep #libleadgender moving, to keep talking about things that make us mad. We hope everyone will help push these ideas forward.

Slide 17:
JO: Here are the best ways to get in touch with us.

Slide 18:
JO: Thanks for reading.

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