Five Steps Toward Normalizing Otherness

by Andrés T. Tapia

How do we identify when something is becoming normalized? As I define it, there are five signs of normalization for any issue that has previously existed outside the norm. The last three in the list below tend to overlap in varying degrees.

  1. The issue stops being completely invisible or buried in society, and begins to be recognized, and talked about, by people as an outlier issue.
  2. When the issue is mentioned in a negative connotation — in a group conversation for example — the person using the negative language is reproached by a member or members of the group.
  3. Pop culture embraces the issue.
  4. Attitudes toward the issue change in polls or elections.
  5. Legislation is put in place to protect or support the group affected by the issue.

What signs are you seeing in your everyday life, in your neighborhood, place of worship, on the job, on T.V., that indicate a change in the wind — a heightened level of awareness or acceptance — on a particular diversity issue?

How Pop Culture Helps Normalize the “Other” in Society

by Andrés T. Tapia

times-square-1024x768Pop culture has been on my mind lately as evidenced by my recent blog posts on pop culture icons Archie Comics, Barbie, and Dora the Explorer.

Not only do I love pop culture for it’s own fun sake; but what pop culture does or doesn’t do — and how it does the doing or the not doing — tells us a lot about the state of diversity and inclusion in society. This is because pop culture — the good, the bad, and the ridiculous — is a sign of what has become, is becoming, or could soon become normal in mainstream cultural behavior and beliefs.

Why is this nerdy, unsexy concept of what is considered “normal” in mainstream society so vitally important to the work of diversity and inclusion? It’s because, ultimately, the work of diversity and inclusion entails normalizing what mainstream society considers “other.” Opponents of affirmative action or diversity often attack the work as giving unfair advantage to people due to skin color or some other otherness. In contrast, our message is that we don’t want whatever it is that makes us different to be considered a deficit, an aberration, weird, or not-of-this place. We are not seeking to make difference a super power. We just want to make it normal. Our work is to normalize the difference —to make its presence an accepted part of the social landscape.

And what does normalizing mean? For sure, it does not mean minimizing the differences. Our differences are real, and we must know how to constructively call them out and manage them. Normalizing is about the differences, and the work it requires to make them into just another part of life. They are not impositions that people can choose to ignore. Our work is to make managing diversity as normal as the hard, but important, work of raising children or managing people or having good interpersonal relationships with the people close to us.

So let’s look at my three recent pop culture Inclusion Paradox sightings examples. Not too long ago, gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals were so relegated to the fringes of society as to be invisible. But then in the mid-90s there was Ellen, the first network sitcom with a lesbian main character. The show’s historic 1997 coming out episode, of the character and the actor, moved gay issues into the mainstream, like nothing else before. Pop culture with its glitz, big name advertisers, and in the case of Ellen, great comedic writing, has the power to transform the taboo or marginalized into the “this-is-how-life-is” category.

After the Ellen breakthrough, came other pop culture advances where different shows, artists, and ads rode Ellen’s coattails. So Elton John came out, as did Melissa Etheridge and Ricky Martin. Then Will and Grace arrived with a diversity of gay characters, while Ellen is now a mainstream talk show host. And finally, in the tamest of platforms, the pop culture comic book, Archie, the quintessential purveyor of American mainstream culture, introduces Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character. This is not just a cute incident. Normalizing events, such as creating a mainstream gay character to hang out with Veronica, Betty, Jughead, and Archie, go a long way to foster a more inclusive environment on the part of the straight community and, as a result, have a positive impact on gay teens, whose current suicide rate is four times higher than that of heterosexuals.

Let’s look at another example: the black Barbie. It used to be that little black girls could only play with white dolls, because there were no black dolls. Now, when I see a little white girl carrying one of the many black or Hispanic or other ethnic dolls available in stores, I know this is progress, even on a doll-house small scale, toward acceptance of the “other” as normal and even desirable. Toy manufacturers are no longer creating such products just for the niche market that can identify with it, but are banking on it being attractive to consumers from other groups.

Finally, there’s Dora the explorer. As we watch the ugly headlines about the shifting winds against the “otherness” of immigrants and, in particular, Latino immigrants, we see Latina Dora enchanting and educating children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, while Mom sings along. As vicious as the immigration and SB1070 debates are in today’s polarized politics, and as predictable as the backlash toward the outsider becomes in tough economic times, our children will look at the Latinos around them and instead of seeing “aliens,” they will see amigos. That’s the power of Dora. And Barbie and Archie. That’s the power of pop culture.


For the five stages of normalizing otherness, click  here.

Campbell’s Soup Knows Its Business Success Rides on Women – As Consumers and Leaders

Eighty percent of Campbell Soup Company’s consumers are women. So to improve their market position, the company has embedded diversity and inclusion into how it does business and manages its talent — it is hiring more women and asking them to bring their ideas to the table. Not only has this strategy led to greater sales and greater employee engagement, it has also won it public recognition. In March 2010, Campbell’s was one of four companies to receive the prestigious Catalyst Award that identifies  companies that have done an outstanding job in the advancement of women.

Here’s the video on Campbell’s “Winning in the Workplace, Winning in the Marketplace, Winning With Women” initiative that garnered them the recognition. Campbell’s Chief Diversity Officer, Rosalyn O’Neale, is among the best in the field, the author of 7 Keys 2 Success: Unlocking The Passion for Diversity, and a friend and colleague. For more on Campbell’s women’s initiative, click here.  Mmm Mmm Good.

Leadership and Diversity Lessons from Obama’s Campaign Trail — Take Five with Betsy Myers

BetsyMyers1Betsy Myers is all about leadership — as a leader herself, most recently as a senior adviser to Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign, as a mentor to many, particularly to women who want to make the world a better place, and as a thinker about effective leadership in the 21st Century.

My team, members of our Women in Leadership governance, and myself recently spent the day with Betsy when she came to Hewitt to speak to us during our Women’s History Month celebration.

As she shared her insights and stories, and she sought out ours, we got to know this extraordinary yet down-to-earth person behind the headlines. As the Obama Campaign’s Chief Operating Officer, she was tasked with the challenge of building a $100M organization, and established the campaign with a business operational model and customer service mentality. Myers also represented the campaign as Chair of Women for Obama. Prior to this she was the Executive Director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and was a senior official in the Clinton Administration. For more background, check out her bio.

Betsy is currently working on a book on leadership that should be out later this year. I could not let her leave us without engaging her in an in-depth conversation that yielded this Take Five.

Take One: What was the most important lesson about diversity and inclusion that you took away from your experience as a leader in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign?

BM: The Obama for America campaign was historic in that the central mission of the campaign was creating opportunities for people to participate and have a voice. Barack Obama took his ideas to the American people and asked for their time, money and vote. He began without a single endorsement from the traditional sources that include members of Congress, governors and constituency groups. He believed that if we created a grassroots organization that allowed “everyone” regardless of age, color, religion, and economics to participate, we would energize the American public. The campaign leveraged a variety of tools, from social media to traditional political door knocking, to reach out to people and invite their participation. What is noteworthy is that this strategy of inclusion encouraged people to have a voice that in turn increased Obama’s voice and allowed him to win the presidency.

Take Two: What do you see as President Obama’s greatest challenge in terms of diversity and inclusion?

Making sure that he stays connected to the American people and continues to hear many voices. Surrounded by staff, press and security, the president lives in a bubble and it is easy to get disconnected from the public. President Obama must allow for time in his schedule where he can actually talk with regular people. The other challenge is to make sure he has a diverse staff around him with new perspectives and ideas, not just the people with whom he is most comfortable.

Take Three: Equipping women for leadership is your passion. How have gender dynamics in business and government changed since the ascent of women such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Gov. Sarah Palin and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns?

Every time a women breaks through the glass ceiling into a traditionally male-dominated field or position, it paves the way for other women as well as bringing new attitudes and comfort levels. President Clinton appointed Madeline Albright as the Secretary of State in early 1997. Since then, only women and people of color have held the prestigious post. Soon, the American public will hardly remember a white male Secretary of State. The key is that these groundbreaking women change the gender dynamics not by their gender alone but by their competency in their positions.

Take Four: When you spoke to us at Hewitt, you emphasized the importance of the new leadership model that is developing in the 21st century. What are the key elements of this new leadership model?

The new model is what we historically considered a more female version of leadership. It emphasizes inclusion, collaboration, listening, and authenticity. What worked in past eras — command and control — no longer works in this new century with a multigenerational workforce. People no longer stay at one company their entire career, so leaders must be more aware of what makes people feel engaged and connected. Today, people want to feel that their work is meaningful and that they have a voice. Technology has changed the way people have a voice and no longer need to ask for permission. Real leaders don’t act like they have all the answers. Instead, they are willing to include their staff and constituents by asking questions.

Take Five:  How ready are corporations and government organizations to nurture a new generation of leaders—and what is at stake for those who do and those who don’t rise to this challenge?

Obviously, some corporations and some government agencies are better equipped than others for this challenge. But historically government has done a better job overall of nurturing diversity and a new generation of leaders than corporate business  has.  Real progress is made when there is commitment from the top by a leader who not only speaks the right words but also supports a program with measurable goals. Diversity of perspectives is the winning edge in this new century for both the public and private sector. Organizations that insist on staffing up with white males only are going will find themselves lagging behind in both profits and ideas.

New Thinking on Gender and Gen Y in the Workplace — Take Five with Dr. Elisabeth Kelan


Elisabeth Kelan, PhD is Assistant Professor of Management at King’s College in London, where she teaches Corporate Social Responsibility and Managing Diversity and Inclusion. A leading scholar on gender and generational identity in the workplace, she is the author of the groundbreaking Performing Gender at Work (2009). Dr. Kelan’s deep research on these topics lead her to differentiated insights that go beyond best practices. She spoke persuasively about Europe’s glass ceiling in March at the 2010 World Diversity Leadership Summit EU held at the Austrian Ministry of Finance in Vienna. We met there, and we took five at the legendary Palmenhaus café where I asked her some pressing questions about women and Millennials in the workplace.

Take One: You write and speak about the 50/30/10 Rule which describes the seemingly unchanging representation of women in organizations: 50% at the entry level, 30% in middle management, and 10% in executive leadership.  Why has it remained unchanged after one, two, and in some places, even three generations of women in the workforce, and particularly in companies that have been explicitly committed to gender diversity for many years? What keeps companies from getting to 50/50/50?

EK: The 50:30:10 rule emerged from a research study that we did with a wide variety of corporations in Europe. It seems to hold true for many organizations in the world. I think that this is an expression of the fact that most organizations committed to gender diversity have only focused on getting more women into organizations by developing flexible working practices and networks for women, rather than developing women as leaders. Our research has shown that to become a leader, three experiences are essential: undergoing executive training, leading critical business projects and working abroad. Yet few organizations offer women these critical experiences.

Take Two:  Women face multiple dilemmas when it comes to how their managerial and leadership performance is evaluated in the corporation. What are these dilemmas and some of the best antidotes to address them?

My research has shown that most organizations have a dormant stereotype of an ‘ideal worker’ who is able bodied, white and male. Everybody who does not fit into that template is, implicitly, not seen as the ideal worker who can fill important roles in management and leadership. To overcome dormant stereotypes that unconsciously shape behavior, it is important to expose them. This allows us to develop practices to broaden our biases and develop more inclusive ideal workers.

Take Three: When it comes to gender issues in the workplace, the focus has been almost exclusively on women: what additional support they need and how they can connect with other women in the organization. But what about men?  What is their responsibility for improving the gender dynamic in the workplace?

Most organizations follow a fix-the-women approach. It is all about fitting women into models that were designed with men in mind rather than questioning the masculine nature of corporate culture. Although related to the problem of  numerical domination by men, this masculine nature of corporate culture is a distinct issue.

It is vital to include men in the conversation about gender roles. After all, they affect men as well as women. Men are still expected to be the breadwinners and to conform to gender stereotypes at work which restrict their identities and behavior. It is often assumed that men have a lot to lose from gender equality, i.e. the loss of power and status. However I think the opposite is true. Men have a lot of freedom to gain.

Take Four:  Millennials have often been depicted by older generations in superficial, sensational, and judgmental ways.  What do organizations need to understand about Millennials’  needs, wants, and aspirations in order to attract and retain them?

When I started the research on Millennials or Generation Y, I was shocked by much of the literature. Some of it offered negative stereotypes of entitled, selfish young adults that seemed to be based on biased research or the commentators’ experiences with their own children.  I strongly felt that a much more nuanced portrayal of Generation Y was needed.

In our research on Millennials we narrowed down our focus: we talk about young professionals who are the future leaders of elite organizations. We avoided using a survey but instead listened to what these young professionals had to say. We found that they were not selfish or arrogant. Rather, they are the first generation that has fully incorporated the concept of living with risk. For them risk is a fact of their working life. They know that stable jobs are a thing of the past and to succeed they need to remain employable. Therefore they work to learn and to develop new skills. They want feedback because they know that only this feedback will ensure that they can deliver a top performance. Organizations need to understand this urge to learn in the context of more risky employment.

Take Five: In offering up practical ways to apply your research on gender and Millennials, you have made several recommendations. But there is one recommendation – focusing on leadership development – that shows up on both lists. Why do you believe that this is the most neglected, yet most necessary, support that companies can give to women and young professionals?

Leadership development and the way we deliver it is centrally important. I mentioned before that organizations don’t do the right things to develop women as leaders. If you want to have more female leaders, it is important to make sure that they get the opportunity to collect the right skills. However the problem is much more deep-seated than this. We also need to ensure that men are comfortable in managing women and to be managed by women. I therefore argue that it is important that general leadership training includes a focus on gender diversity to allow leaders to manage effectively in a diverse workplace.

For Gen Y diversity is no longer an issue, and they see the gender problem as solved. Young women in particular are highly skeptical towards women’s groups and often feel that these women’s groups are not for them.  it remains vitally important, however, that in their leadership training Millennials come to understand the intentionality and skill needed to get the best performance from a diverse workforce. Inclusive management does not just happen, and leadership training needs to take it more seriously, even with Generation Y.

Pressure Is Mounting Against Europe’s Gender Glass Ceiling

by Andrés T. Tapia; research by Susan Welch and Leonardo Sforza —

VIENNA — “Pressure is building against the glass ceilings, glass cliffs, and career labyrinths that women in Europe continue to face,” says Dr. Elisabeth Kelan, Assistant Professor at King’s College in London and a  leading scholar and author on gender and generations. At this past week’s World Diversity Leadership Summit hosted by the Austrian Ministry of Finance and where I met Dr. Kelan, several of the speakers and many of the attendees, three-fourths of whom were women, echoed the sentiment.

When it comes to eliminating gender inequalities, Europe’s record is as varied as the people groups who live there. Back in the 1970s, it was Sweden who pioneered the “equality in government” movement, requiring at least 40 percent of its MPs to be women. Similar laws followed in Norway, Denmark and Finland. Once Scandinavian women began assuming more positions of leadership, a ripple effect began to be felt elsewhere. In Austria today,  more than half of the country’s senior ministers are women and women outnumber men in the Spanish Cabinet.

Despite these advances, I personally have witnessed many situations where the dearth of the presence of women in leadership forums has a distinct retro feel. Did I just step into the 1950s? The women I talked to at and outside the conference concur but many sense that the moment to demand change has come. The contradictions have become more blatant and the pipeline of highly educated and career experienced women is as strong and robust as it has ever been.

The clamor is rising that despite more college-aged women than men complete upper and postsecondary education European women , on average still earn 15-18% less than men in comparable jobs. The gap is widest in Estonia and Cyprus, where men earn 25 percent more than their female counterparts. Furthermore, in every age group more men than women are employed, and women are more likely to be employed part-time.

As is always the case, women’s disadvantages in the workplace are linked to other disadvantages. Women spend less time pursuing leisure activities than men, and more time doing household chores. They stand a greater chance of living in poverty. And although women in Europe tend to outlive men, they also report more longstanding health concerns.

The mood at the World Diversity Leadership Summit in Vienna, was one of, how shall I say it, cynical hope. Cynical about the men in power being willing to do much about the gap, but hope that a growing diversity movement fueled by the rise of highly educated and ambitious women and supported by a growing body of legislation can close the gap. 

As a keynote speaker, I joined in with 200+ participants in brainstorming stategies to most effectively “recruit and manage diverse talent by 2020.” Some European employers are coming to understand that they can do more to close the gender gap, and that they will benefit significantly if they do. A recent study by the European Commission found that Europe would see a 30 percent increase in GDP if the employment gender gap can be eliminated.

Consider these encouraging signs:

  • The European Union’s “European Strategy for Jobs Growth” set a goal of 60% employment for women by 2010; as of 2008, 59.1% of women were employed.
  • In 2006, Norway passed legislation requiring the boards of all public companies to include at least 40 percent women by 2008, which has resulted in revitalized and more cosmopolitan leadership. At least half a dozen other EU countries are considering similar measures.
  • Successful companies in Europe are promoting women in leadership. Sodexo, Deutsche Bank, and Novartis are all examples of corporations who have become convinced of the business benefits of women in leadership and increased their already existing commitments to help more women enter positions of power. Recently, Paris-headquartered Sodexo CEO Michel Landel declared publicly at an event I attended in New York City that 25% of executives’ bonuses are tied to achieving diversity goals especially one that states that 24% of the top 300 leaders will be women within the next few years. Currently 19% are.  In defending against accusations of using quotas in setting gender representation goals, he replied, “We set goals for every business objective. This is no different.”
  • There is a current campaign “Close the Gender Gap Campaign” by the European Commission’s Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities entity. Here’s an ad from the European edition of Newsweek. It contains a link to the Commission’s web page dedicated to the cause:


Despite these good news of these advances, the economic crisis of the last two years threatens to slow down progress. According to the European Commission:

“Recent analysis of national responses to the crisis confirms the risk of downgrading the status of equality policies or reducing budgets allocated to these policies. Some gender equality measures have been cancelled or delayed and possible future cuts in public budgets may have a negative effect on female employment and on the promotion of equality.”

Despite this warning, given the energy at the WDLS conference and the various legislative initiatives the push for closing the pay gap should yield results. At Hewitt offices in Europe we see increased requests from companies for help with assessing if they have gaps and, if so, how to close them.

The bigger challenge lies in seeing greater promotions of women into managerial and leadership positions. “Until the profile of the  ‘ideal worker’ is named and challenged for being based on the preferred characteristics of white males,” says Dr. Kelan from King’s College, “women as well as people with different racial backgrounds will continue to fall short of being considered.”

Women Leaders Rising — Stories and Stats from the 2010 Global Best Practices Session

Increasingly, women are shattering the glass ceiling–and they’re doing so in savvy businesses who actively support gender diversity in leadership. While moderating  Diversity Best Practices’ 2010 Global Best Practice Session in February 2010, I was struck by these stats:

  • At Verizon, 29% of the top 300 leaders are women.
  • At Sodexo, women hold 19% of the top 300 positions. Their goal: 24% within the next few years.
  • At Ernst & Young, the number of women in titled leadership positions has grown to nearly 20%.

To be sure we still have a very long way to go in many companies to see women represented according to their availability in the talent pool and according to the talent, education, and experiences they have. But here, let’s just take a moment to reflect on the gains above, which can be added to what presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling when referring to the votes she got. Not long ago, gains such as these were just pipe dreams. And they still might just be that if executives were not becoming more and more convinced that making leadership gender inclusive makes businesses stronger.

The 2010 Global Best Practice Session hosted by The New York Times focused on gender and corporate social responsibility, and business leaders were there to explain how corporations are helping more of their most talented women step up. Ernst & Young, for example,  is involving men in women’s initiatives, training them to become better coaches for women developing their own leadership styles. And Sodexo ties 25% of executive bonuses to achieving diversity goals around gender representation. It make sense: according to Global Chief Diversity Officer Rohini Anand, every $1 Sodexo invests in mentoring sees a return of $19. Though their approaches differ, these companies all see gender diversity in leadership as vital to strengthening their executive talent pool. Said Sodexo CEO Michel Landel:

“We set goals for every business objective. Gender diversity is no different.”

In The Inclusion Paradox, I offer more stories of how gender diversity all along the corporate ladder has made businesses better able to cope with increasingly diverse client bases. What is your company doing to help women enter top positions of leadership?

Wives and Mothers Rising in the Global Workforce

by Susan Welch, Hewitt Research –

As noted in my January 27 post, women by some measures are exceeding men in education—but still not getting equal pay at the end of the work day. The following two news stories from different parts of the Western world, however, illustrate how married women are increasingly becoming valued as indispensable to the 21st century global workforce.

Although a gendered income gap remains, wives in the United States are seeing their economic status increase. According to a Pew Research study titled “New Economics of Marriage: The Rise of Wives,” compensation is more equitable for married women than it once was. In 1970, only 4 percent of marriages included a wife earning more than her husband–even though 20 percent of married women were more educated than their husbands. As of 2007, 22 percent of U.S. marriages involved a woman who earned more than her husband, paralleling more closely the reality that 28 percent of those marriages included women who were more educated than their husbands.

Unfortunately, not all married women in the West have made this much progress.

A New York Times story details how in Germany, working women—mothers, in particular—are still struggling to keep their heads above water. There, the cultural ideal of a nurturing mother being a stay-at-home mother is so strong that most state-run schools dismiss children at 1:00 p.m. Consequently, most working mothers have part-time jobs, or no jobs at all, so they can be home for their children. Lunch and after-school care are not always easily available. Significantly, mothers who work more than part-time have earned a nickname: “Rabenmutter.” This translates to “raven mother,” or a mother who pushes her chicks out of the nest.

The good news is that Germany’s traditional views about mothers and school hours are beginning to change. As the birth rate plummets and concerns about labor shortages in the female-dominated service sector rise, more Germans recognize that women should not be forced to choose between children and career. Since 2003, nearly a fifth of Germany’s 40,000 schools have phased in afternoon programs, and more plan to follow suit.

“This is a taboo we just can’t afford anymore,” says Ursula von der Leyen, the German labor minister. “The country needs women to be able to both work and have children.” This trend turns the question of child care into one of economic competitiveness, notes Karen Hagemann, professor of European and gender history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As German businesses are discovering, career-minded women are not the only ones who benefit when the workplace, and society, adapt to accomodate them.

Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Business – Progress?

In November 2009, FORTUNE magazine unveiled their annual 50 Most Powerful Women list.

Their headline: “In 1998 when the Most Powerful Women in Business list premiered, just two of our honorees ran Fortune 500 companies. This year 13 do.”

So let’s do the numbers: in a decade’s time, an increase of nearly 600% which means that women CEOs of FORTUNE 500 companies went from representing .4% of CEOs to 2.6%.

Bottom line: we’ve got a long way to go.

No wonder the French Parliament is contemplating requiring that 50% of all corporate boards be composed of women within the next five years. Can companies get there without requiring government intervention?

And to take it one important step further: when it comes to women of color among the Top 50 women, they can be counted on one hand…

Gender Diversity: Top 10 Things Companies Can Do to Maximize Women’s Contributions

While innovative, current, and relevant strategy is essential to break through into the next generation of diversity work, organizations must continue to be operationally excellent and disciplined in delivering the policies, programs, and processes that have proven to be beneficial to people in groups that have traditionally been marginalized. 

I recently came across this clear and compelling document by Inforum whose mission is “to strengthen the business environment in Michigan by creating opportunities for women to lead and succeed.”  While Inforum is geographically based, their recommendations have universal applicability: Top 10 Things Companies Can Do to Maximize Women’s Contributions and 10 Ways Women Can Rev up their Careers

I explore these and various other issues in my book The Inclusion Paradox: The Obama Era and the Transformation of Global Diversity

– Andrés T. Tapia

Gender Diversity: Double Standard on Female Behavior in Sports and Business?

As I visit my daughter here at the University of New Mexico, the video that went viral of the UNM female soccer player who violently yanked an opponent’s ponytail — among other unsportsmanlike behaviors — is on my mind. The fact that it went viral. raises questions of whether women are trapped in conflicting standards of behavior and in double standards as it relates to men.

The blogosphere has vented quite a bit, and accurately, on the fact that if the player in question had been male this would have been a non-story. Not that soccer player Elizabeth Lambert actions aren’t appalling but culturally what made the difference between a story that would have only been of import only to the two teams playing each other, became a nationwide youtube and ESPN sensation.

As Bruce Arena former coach of the US men’s national team said in a interview with the New York Times, “I think we are somewhat sexist in our opinion of sport. I think maybe people are alarmed to see a woman do that, but men do a hell of a lot worse things. Was it good behavior? No, but because it’s coming from a woman, they make it a headline.”

This soccer incident surfaces the double bind that women in the workplace often face. Play it too softly, and they are not seen as leader material, play aggressively and the B word accusation is triggered to put her in her place. As more women play sports, and as more women rise into positions of leadership in society, politics, and business, all of us as part of it, must take a deep look at our beliefs and intuitive reactions to seeing women be explicitly competitive.

We must be able to clearly and fairly answer: what is truly unacceptable behavior — regardless of whether it’s a man or a woman doing it — and what is a double standard that ends up being detrimental in how women are assessed in their leadership success and potential?