“Yes, and…”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “confidence issue,” by which I mean the belief that one thing that holds women back is a persistent lack of self-confidence. I hope it’s obvious that when I say “women” I do not mean all women, and am simply using the generalization as a word-saver, but in case it’s not obvious, now it should be. I like the idea of assertiveness training for women because I believe it’s a proactive step women can take to improve their own position and career path. A few things, however, have gotten me thinking.

One – I’ve had improv comedy appear in my life three times in the past two weeks, and that’s rare for me. I think it’s a sign. First, we went to a show; then, at our all-office meeting, our new improv troupe trained by Second City (“a company that uses improv to build communication skills in corporate employees”) performed. Third, an article in Real Simple suggested using improv to combat social anxiety. In any case, the point is that I have been consistently reminded this week about the improv principle of “yes, and” instead of “no.”

Two – focusing on women only attacks half the problem. It leaves out men, who also deserve career planning and advice and who can directly contribute to the equalization of the sexes in board rooms (not least because they make up the majority of those who hire).

Three – the article I referenced in the last post notes that maybe men should act more like women, because research has shown that women are more efficient and successful people managers, and are rated highly on a lot of retention-factor items such as inclusiveness, respect, and collaboration.

To points two and three I say “yes, and.”

Maybe what we need is assertiveness and courage training for all employees. Collaboration and trust-building training for all employees. Men and women working together to build a better workplace for all. I recognize that this is idealistic. But any solution that focuses on only half of the population is only going to be half a solution. To training for women, we need to say “yes, and.”

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