Oh the gender divide. How that riles us up. Recently, the ombudsman for National Public Radio (NPR), Alicia Shepard asked why there were significantly fewer women being used for sources, expertise and commentary on NPR. Although her methods were highly unscientific, she felt she was onto something.
Just by measuring NPR's top shows, she found out that women made up a small 26% of their sources. Now this isn't just a NPR issue, by far. Look at any news channel or mainstream newspaper. And we're not talking about female anchors but experts and interviewees called upon every day for their analysis and commentary on the day's hot topics.
NPR's Brooke Gladstone interviewed NYU Professor Clay Shirky, who famously wrote a blog earlier this year simply titled, "A Rant About Women" earlier this month, to see whether there was any one central reason explaining this divide. In a candid and expressive interview they discussed--and the irony of a man attempting to answer why there are way fewer women experts wasn't lost on them either--this and more. An excerpt:
Brooke: You write, "Women aren't just bad at behaving like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks, they are bad at behaving like self-promoting narcissists, anti-social obsessives or pompous blowhards, even a little bit, even temporarily, when it would be in their best interests to do so. Whatever bad things you can say about those behaviors, you can't say they are underrepresented among people who have changed the world." What was the reaction to that?
Clay: "...The reaction that has surprised me most is that any number of people, many of them women, have come forward and said, essentially, women have a different way of getting along in the world, we're more social, we're more nurturing, and so forth. And I have two problems with that attitude. The first is, essentially, that if you flowered up the language a little bit, you could dump that into a Victorian almanac. They don't get to run the company. Maybe someday they can be senior vice-president of marketing, but mostly they're there in this kind of middle layer of management to keep things running."
And this Sunday, one more woman will join the ranks of the few on NPR to discuss a subject dear to those of who read this blog regularly. I will be discussing corporate responsibility, sustainable and unsustainable capitalism, and what we can do as informed careerists to change the attitude toward sustainability in our work culture, with Steve D'Agostino on The Business Beat. Details follow:
When: Sunday, May 2, 2010; 10:00 pm (EST)
Where: NPR's Central New England affiliate WICN 90.5 FM and streaming audio online at WICN.org
Read the complete interview with Clay Shirky at On The Media. And as always, I welcome your comments and perspectives. So weigh in by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company or connecting with me on Twitter @VaultCSR! And don't forget to tune in on Sunday!
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