Consider these selected quotes from a well known novel:
” A startling thought this, that a woman could handle business matters as well or better then a man. Never before had she put this remarkable idea into words. She sat quite still with the heavy book on her lap, thinking how in these past lean months she had done a man’s work and done it well. She had been brought up to believe that a woman alone could accomplish nothing. Why…. why….her mind stuttered, I believe woman could manage everything in the world without a man’s help-even having babies. With the idea that she was as capable as a man came the sudden rush of pride and a violent longing to prove it, to make money for herself as men made money. Money that would be her own, which she would neither have to ask for or account to any man.”
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936
As I read these words recently- It occurred to me how very remarkable it was that Ms Margaret Mitchell put these words into print in 1936. I found myself thinking about how diverse this perspective was in the 1930’s and how accurately predictive.
One of the elements of the business case for supporting the progression of women in business is the need for diversity of thought on our leadership teams. Of course we need all types of diversity of thought – not just gender diversity. But lets think about this for a moment- does it really matter to have a woman’s perspective where there are few? Are there things that a woman might thing about at crucial times that a man might not? Do women bring a unique perspective at times that represents a view of the future that might not be presented if they were not there? Imagine Ms Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, on a marketing team in the 1930’s? Or on a new product team? Or working in an advertising team for a product aimed at women? I suspect she would bring a very different view from the status quo. It certainly takes courage to speak about radically new views that reshape the future. We need brave men and women to raise their voices. How many boardrooms and executive office suites would read the Gone With The Wind quotes above and still find themselves questioning the validity of these thoughts today, over 70 years later. The answer is : too many.