What to say when someone says they REALLY tried to hire a woman

I just got a call from a client. She recently gave a talk on the importance of gender diversity and was faced with a “tough question” from a man in the audience. He said this: “We have tried so hard to promote women in our organisation, but they rarely want the jobs. I guess they just have different priorities or are not willing to put in the long hours.”

Here is the email I sent to her in reply.  I urge you to keep this script handy when dealing with this kind of very common comment.

Dear Wendy,

Thanks for your note.

This comment reflects a deeply held bias. Ideas like this become accepted “facts” (when they are really rhetoric) because they are PARTLY true. Indeed they just FEEL so true. Yet they are deeply misleading.  SO… Yes, women do self- sabotage, yes women are passive, yes women cut other women down, yes women leave good jobs in droves.

BUT (and I mean BUT) the bigger question is WHY do they do this?

If you blame women you will keep trying to fix something that is NOT broken. If you realize it is our culture and institutions you will ACT VERY DIFFERENTLY and actually change things. THIS IS THE SAME RUT Sheryl Sandberg (in her 7 million viewed TED talk: “Lean In“) fell in! She has since realized her error.

There is nothing wrong with women but there is something very wrong with our corporations. If we REALLY want great women we can make it happen. Its not that hard. And please read my book, “Lean Out.”




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