Breaking Bad Part 1
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:10
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well Marsha, welcome back yet again.
Marsha Clark 0:24
Yes, thank you so much.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:25
You're welcome. And I know that today's episode is titled "Breaking Bad - Stereotypes". But the more I've thought about this, especially since tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States, I think the title should be called "Stuffed".
Marsha Clark 0:42
Why don't you say more about that?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:45
Well, I you know, one connection to "stuffed" and Thanksgiving is that many families traditionally stuff their turkeys with something to add flavor. And then we also tend to, like, eat ourselves into food comas on Thanksgiving and sit around on the couch watching football after stuffing ourselves.
Marsha Clark 1:02
Yes, and I've had a long standing tradition where I go the Cowboys game and stuff myself and hope that they stuff a few, you know, opposing quarterbacks.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:09
Yeah, stuff a few players under the dirt. Yes. I like it.
Marsha Clark 1:12
So I can get there but it's a time honored tradition for sure in many American homes. Football, three games on that day and people plan their dinners around it. So how would you connect the topic of breaking bad stereotypes to all of that?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:25
Well, so how I thought it would connect was all about the work that goes into preparing for big events like a big Thanksgiving meal or a Diwali celebration like we just had last month. It dawned on me that the lion's share of the responsibility for pulling all these things together falls on the matriarch - the mom, the eldest daughter, the only woman in the room, the women, whoever that might be. The women end up being stuffed with extra work and stress trying to create or sustain these and many more wonderful family traditions.
Marsha Clark 2:04
Well, it's true. It's, I always think the Norman Rockwell painting, you know, the family sitting around with a beautiful turkey. So it is a great connection, Wendi. And what we're exploring today is how household responsibilities such as preparing meals, cleaning, educating, caring for children, planning holiday vacation activities, scheduling, you know really if you look at all of it, it's all the tasks associated with running a home and statistically bell shaped curve research fall on women. And historically, women have been stuffed trying to juggle work and household and family commitments, and the metaphor works beautifully. And we're going to break down the traditional stereotypical chores across opposite sex couples and how that compares to same sex couples and most importantly, how we can all make changes that reduce the physical, emotional, and mental load that women are carrying. And then the other important note regarding today's episode is that not we're not only going to talk about the typical expected distribution of chores across genders, but when we think about that mental or emotional load that's required to run a household and a family and how that tends to fall across those gender lines. So we've got, we've got a big agenda today.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 3:20
This is gonna be good. Let's jump in. But before we dig in, can we do like a quick review of what we mean by gender stereotypes? I know, we've talked about gender and stereotypes in past episodes, but I think it'd be really helpful to get that foundation set here as well.
Marsha Clark 3:37
Yeah, I think that's a good point, Wendi. So let's level set first. So you know, I talk a lot about gender and stereotypes throughout the book, "Embracing Your Power". So I'm going to pull from the definition just so that we're not confusing people and we can stay consistent. So the official definition of gender stereotypes is expectations of behavior based on my gender. So when I think about that in practical terms, I walk in the door in this package called woman, right? And people begin to have expectations of how I will behave as a woman.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 4:13
Right. And so how does that show up in real life?
Marsha Clark 4:17
It means that, you know, depending on how deeply ingrained someone's belief and expectations are around historic gender roles, responsibilities, they're going to look for behaviors that align with those expectations, their internal stories. And many times these ingrained beliefs aren't even operating at a conscious level, so we don't realize we have these expectations. If you think about computers, it's the operating system, right? We don't know what the operating system does, but we just know it's required to make things other things that we do know about what well. So for as long as we can go back in recorded history there's been a traditional distribution of chores between men and women, and it goes as far back as original hunter and gatherer tribes. The men were the hunters and they left the community for days at a time in search of game to bring back to the tribe so they have something to eat. The women stayed behind gathering plants and herbs, preparing meals, mending tents, raising the babies. And just think about that. Even back then the distribution of work meant that women's chores were non stop. There was never a break from, you know, feeding the babies cultivating the plants, and tending to whatever the home might be.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 5:33
Right. So I understand that these gender roles have a lot of history behind them. But surely we've evolved since then.
Marsha Clark 5:41
Well, one would love to think that way. But as you and I both know, and what we talk about on here is well, not so fast. (Yeah). So in some cultures there has certainly been significant progress or evolution, if you will, and in other's really not much at all. And I always find it fascinating here in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women spend 47 minutes more on housework, on average, than men each day. And that adds up to roughly five and a half hours each week. And that's not including childcare, grocery shopping or errands, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies in other categories, and of which women also do far more. So just get that. Sarah Green Carmichael shared those statistics, as recently as August of this year in an opinion piece that was in Bloomberg, which is a news media. And then she added a very interesting twist to the data. She explained that for women to equalize the workload, they should stop doing housework on August 29th for the rest of the year!
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 6:51
I remember this. I remember seeing this. I remember all the social media hoopla about this, if we stopped working, stop doing the things between August 29th and the rest of the year it would even the household workload, and women would get the last four months of the year off.
Marsha Clark 7:06
I know. I'm thinking our listeners are going "YES"! you know, in thinking about that. But it's mind blowing. And I want to say this. And I say it every time I offer up this kind of data. Even the statistics from the Bureau of Labor are based on a bell shaped curve. And in this case, it's a bell shaped curve of opposite sex couples, say men and women as partners. So are there examples out there of couples where the distribution of chores is significantly different? Yes, of course there are. Are there male/female couples out there who are closer to a true 50/50 split on the time spent on chores? Of course, yes. But statistically speaking, Pew Research, Gallup, another research agency, and the US government, all of them find that as they study the breakdown of household responsibilities, they consistently find that women, regardless of whether they also have a job outside the home, are tapped for taking the lead on those traditional female tasks like tending the house, laundry, cleaning, shopping, cooking, washing dishes, taking care of the children, paying bills, family planning activity, all of that if they are, they fall upon the female.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 8:22
Right. Now okay, isn't this breakdown of responsibilities probably more frequent in older couples? I mean, I hope to think that Gen Xers of which I am one, and millennials, we're doing a better job of splitting up these tasks more evenly between partners.
Marsha Clark 8:41
Yeah, again, I would love to go there and be there with you but I've learned you know, doing this work for as long as I have. I would think that we have made progress. But you know, maybe we know people who have made progress or we hang out with people who might have a more 50/50 split, but the research shows that breaking down those stereotypical chores is still very much falling along gender lines, and you know, even the statement from 2022 and as recently as big bodies of research in 2019.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:11
So I'm seeing in our notes here that there's a chart. Do you want to address any of these? I'm so sorry, listeners, that you can't see this because there's a fantastic chart that has men, women both equally and then things like makes decisions about furniture and decorations, laundry, prepares meals, cares for children. Like Marsha come on. Jump in on this.
Marsha Clark 9:35
So, so here's what we're going to do. We're going to publish this on our post.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:39
Okay, I love it.
Marsha Clark 9:41
Because it does certainly reinforce everything we've said thus far in this program or in this episode. You know, laundry 58% of women, clean the house 51%, prepare meals 51%, care for children on a daily basis 50%, grocery shopping 45%. So the numbers are big, right? And and you know where the woman is more likely. And just like on cleaning house, it's not 51% women and 49% men. It's 51% women/ 9% women/ and then 37% Equally. So it's got some good de-layering, right. Peel back the layers of the onion, find out more about it.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:41
Okay. So we'll have this not only in the social posts promoting this podcast episode, but we'll also put this chart in the written transcript on Marsha's website as well. So yeah, so you can get this chart.
Marsha Clark 10:34
And the source of this is Gallup, the Gallup organization who does, you know, enormous amounts of research. And Allison Daminger is a Harvard graduate with a PhD in Sociology and Social Policy. And she's been researching contemporary opposite sex couples and how they distribute work for quite some time. And she was surprised in her research by what she described was, quote, "the way people are able to tolerate inequality and how they make sense of it." And she explained that inequality is annoying, but if you're in an otherwise happy relationship, you can metabolize it.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 11:12
Marsha Clark 11:13
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 11:13
Okay, so the inequality of the workload isn't problematic enough to do anything about it. Is that what I'm hearing is the underlying... okay. Yeah.
Marsha Clark 11:24
So for many of the couples she interviewed, you know, it's not problematic enough. And to make sure there wasn't any kind of uncomfortable bias in her interviews, she spoke with a partner separately, right? You know, I'm not, I don't have to say this because my spouse is in the room, right? I don't want to hurt feelings or I want to give the politically correct answer. So one thing that I found particularly fascinating about her research was that even in couples where the husbands or male partners were highly skilled, intelligent people, (you know, project managers, surgeons, men with what she described as strong executive function skills) when they got home, they defer to their wives. Their justification for this abdication on home based issues and decisions is they said their wives had superior ability to plan and think ahead.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 12:13
Okay, whoa. Okay. So these men are able, capable of planning and thinking ahead at work or they wouldn't be successful with their jobs. But once they get across the threshold of their house, they just abdicate.
Marsha Clark 12:29
Right! You heard that right.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 12:32
Marsha Clark 12:33
So it's like they switch off that part of the brain, that work part of the brain and shift into home mode, you know, and we know that men can compartmentalize better than we do just based on brain physiology. And so for most men home is the place where they go to relax and unwind, not to take on another one to three hours of work. Now, that's the way men think. They go home to relax and unwind. And Daminger also explained that for the professional women she interviewed, she found that they were Type A at work and Type A at home. These women are just Type A across the board. And what that means for our listeners is a lot of energy, a lot of focus, drive to get things done, drive to get things done, drive to get things done. Whereas with men, it's more context specific. So for a woman, if I'm type A, I'm type A everywhere I go. Men can be Type A at work and not so at home. (Okay.) And so they could shut off their driver driver driver energy and thoughts that go with that when they got home. And for the woman, there was no shutting it off.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 13:42
I guess they can't both shut down or nothing would get done and dishes would pile up and kids would run rampant (naked) and dogs and cats going... everybody would, it would be chaos. So who's gonna pack the kids lunches tomorrow?
Marsha Clark 13:58
That's a fundamental question. (Yeah.) It is you know, so this isn't 100% of families. So let me again point to that. But it is the majority of families where the expectation of who does what falls along gender lines, regardless of skill preference or capacity. And Wendi, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the additional load that women carry. So while Daminger was conducting her initial research back in 2019, she discovered that there's not only the actual tasks associated with household responsibilities, but there is also what she calls the mental load.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 14:39
Okay, I'm gonna have to jump here on this because this I associate with. I don't have children, so for Scott, my husband, and me this is like a low maintenance kind of, relatively low maintenance situation because we're both grown ass adults, if I can say that, (self-sufficient) self-sufficient and whatever, but the mental work and I really want our listeners to key in on this so go ahead, Marsha, because this is fascinating.
Marsha Clark 15:04
Well, and you know, get your pens ready to to write this down perhaps. She identified four distinct stages of this mental work. The one is anticipating the need. I know that little Johnny has to go for a six month checkup. Identifying the options. Well, do we try to get an appointment on Saturday, which means we should have started three minutes ago? Or could dad take him or what are the other options. Deciding amongst those options is number three and then four, monitoring the results, which is really in my mind, making it happen. And not surprisingly, she found that mothers did more in all four stages.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 15:48
Okay, so give us, besides Johnny in the needing to go to the dentist example, what's another example of this?
Marsha Clark 15:54
Well one I use often in class that really seems to resonate a lot with women, it is time for little Johnny's checkup. So okay, let's say you're married, a mom to a 10 year old and a 4 year old and you work full time outside the home. We'll use the mom. Rremember that the 10 year old needs to see the doctor for a follow up to get stitches removed or that checkup or whatever, but the day it's supposed to happen, guess what? It's also the same day you have a huge presentation out of town. And you call the doctor's office to see what appointment times are available that day. And you know, they have a 9am and a noon, and you call your husband to see if he can take the 10 year old. And he says he can do it at noon. So it's the mom's responsibility to call the doctor's office back and confirm the appointment. And you have to call your husband back to confirm as well. I've even had women say and I call his assistant if he has one to make sure that she can remind him, which I call the work wife right for many executive assistants. But anyway, I digress. And then you call your child's school to let them know that your husband is going to be picking up little Johnny early that day because that's unusual, he doesn't usually do that. And you realize that it's going to be over the lunch period. So you send your husband a text reminding him that he will also have to grab lunch for the child while they're out. And not to order a soda because the child will be too wired to focus back at school. But you know, the list just goes on and on. And then you send another text asking your husband to be sure and check with the doctor if there are any further required visits and make sure you get a note from the doctor so child can get back into school. And finally, you remind your husband not to mention any of this to the 4 year old who will have a total meltdown if they're not allowed to leave preschool to hang out and have lunch with daddy.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 17:32
Okay, not only am I exhausted, but again, I don't have children and yet I do this for my husband. Yeah, I have my husband, I have my version of this as well. Yeah. So.
Marsha Clark 17:44
And it could be parents too, trying to take care of loved ones and family members. And, and here's the kicker. You did all that work. You anticipated the need, you identify the options, you worked out the plan, and you're going to inevitably monitor the results to make sure everything happens as it's supposed to. And you know what happens when dad shows up at school to pick up your child for the appointment? Everyone will comment and say what a good dad he is, you know, for being so involved, especially if you're typically the one that usually handles all that. And so Dr. Daminger, she offered another example of this disparate split. And she said this hidden work has various impacts. We know for instance, that women are more likely than men to worry about childcare even when they're not with their children. And so it causes this additional stress because it's ever present. Even when you should be concentrating on other things, you can't because you're wondering is the husband or the partner going to remember to do, you know, all of the other things. (Yeah, yep.) And this always present stress is often referred to as the emotional or mental load, so to come back to what that a mental load means. And one other thing that jumped out at me in this article about Dr. Daminger's research was a quote by Leah Ruppanner, who is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Melbourne in Australia and author of the book "Motherlands", and she adds that, quote, "The mental load is that thread that brings the family into your work life. It's the constant low level worry about whether we're doing enough (you know, as mothers as parents) and the impact that our parenting will have on our child's future." So, even the mental load of always trying to mitigate future risk gets added to all of this.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 18:04
Absolutely. Okay, so there's a lot of emphasis here on raising children. But can some of that mental or emotional load carry over into other areas of family life? I'm thinking about worrying and managing elder care, right, as we mentioned earlier.
Marsha Clark 19:55
Yes. The answer is it carries into all of those areas. It's not always about the kids. Women tend to take the lead role in caregiving responsibilities for the entire family unit. So that includes parents of both partners. So it's not like me taking care of my parents, I'm also taking care of my partner's parents. (Absolutely.) And, and then I have a friend who's in need, and I got to take care of that, or I have an employee who's going through something stressful, and I have to take care of that. So all of those things are the things that are swirling around in our brains every day.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 20:28
I'm curious, and you mentioned this in the introduction of today's episode. How do these gender role expectations shift when we were talking about a same gender couple?
Marsha Clark 20:40
Right. So the research on this dynamic has been consistent, pretty consistent. In general, the division of labor in same gender couples tend to fall more along the lines of skills, preferences, and time, not gender. (Okay.) But they're using different criteria by which to make the decision of who's doing what, based on skills, preferences and time. So they have the flexibility or the freedom, if you will, of operating outside the traditional gender expectations. And one particularly interesting perspective I found came from an article Kelly Holland did and she was reporting for CNBC, the television station, and she presented the findings from a 2015 survey that was conducted by the Families and Work Institute. And this study looked at 225 dual earner couples. And Miss Holland interviewed Kenneth Matos, and he's the institute's senior director of research. And Mr. Matos explained that, and I quote, "Part of the difference in how household responsibilities are split may stem from the fact that same sex couples have already broken out of that normative family structure." Right? So they've already broken the glass, whereas male-female couples, they've had a long standing template. You know, it is the sort of habit template and there's a lot going really fast into the traditional gender roles and then saying, wait a second, this isn't really where I want to be. And so same sex couples, in contrast to that, have already broken the mold so they can have a greater richness of imagination when it's time to divvy up those domestic chores.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 22:29
Okay, say that one more time. Same sex couples have broken the mold and what?
Marsha Clark 22:34
Broken the mold so they can have a richness of imagination when it comes to dividing chores.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 22:41
Yeah, that I love.
Marsha Clark 22:43
I do too. So the traditional expectations of gender role responsibilities is still very much in play in couples and families and research from around the world aligns with Dr. Daminger finding that even today, how chores are divvied up goes back to an unchanging socialization of boys and girls growing up.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 23:06
Ah, okay, I was wondering when we were going to get into that formative years social conditioning piece, because this has always been to me one of the most intriguing topics that you cover. So for those of you who are following along in the book, we're now in Chapter Two of "Embracing Your Power". You spend a lot of time exploring gender stereotypes there, how they're formed and how they're reinforced.
Marsha Clark 23:31
That chapter is titled "A Lesson in Contrast" and it really is an opportunity to explore what are often referred to as our gender schemas, how they're formed and solidified. And a gender schema, which is really in lay terms is a story. And it explains and describes how our cumulative experience of something impacts us. And it also includes our expectations of what will happen in the future based on our past experiences. So from the book, I'll just say: "Gender schemas have an impact not only on how people process information, but also on the attitudes and beliefs that direct gender appropriate behavior."
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 24:17
And you ask some interesting reflection questions in that chapter in the book to help us dig a little deeper into our own beliefs and biases around gender differences. And those questions for our listeners who are again, following along are on page 30. And the first one is, how does your life differ from that of your mother's or grandmother's?
Marsha Clark 24:41
Well, and this is about me helping others get clear about where those stereotypes, what we're holding at an unconscious level. You know, that's the unconscious bias and it's, you know, all of that is playing into these stereotypes. And so, I encourage our listeners to answer that question. How does your life differ from that of your mother's or grandmother's or whoever was your primary, I'll call it female role model?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 25:03
Marsha Clark 25:04
And then two related questions are, what stereotypes existed for them, be it your mother or grandmother? And how are they different from you?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 25:14
Wow. What types of responses do you typically hear when you ask those questions in your workshop?
Marsha Clark 25:19
Yeah. Well, it usually starts with good mothers or good wives and then fill in the blank, always have dinner on the table so that their family can eat together. Good wives and mothers always keep a clean house and make the bed up before they leave for work. Good mothers provide unwavering support for their husband, their husband's career, their husband's feelings, their husband's time. And, you know, that's a lot from the mothers. And the grandmother, you know, grandmothers should or could, or shouldn't, I mean, you know, why everything has the list, they shouldn't travel alone, they shouldn't put their needs first, they shouldn't ask for help. And, and then I also get one and this is, this one's been intriguing to me since the first time I heard it, and women should always have their own money so they have options. And to me, that is a woman who doesn't want her daughter to follow in her footsteps of lacking financial security, to have options.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 26:21
Wow. Okay, I could have a whole podcast on (yes, we could) that. Okay, so the next question is, what messages did you receive early on in your life about what it means to be a "good girl"?
Marsha Clark 26:37
Well, and I want to add to that because it's another two parter, what messages about being a good girl that we receive and how have those messages as a young girl played out, being that good girl as an adult. You know, what does good girl as an adult look like? And you know, these are generic messages. And I want our listeners to really come up with their own and share them with other girls and women in their lives. But the messages were play nice, look pretty, share, never complain, fuss or fight. And you know, if girls get in a fight, one of them gets sent home. If boys get in a fight, it's like you boys knock it off. I mean, you know, so again, it's a lot of the same behavior by a girl versus a boy, you know. It can be the exact same behavior and be received very differently.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 27:29
And I want to also kind of jump in and compare, especially the never fuss or fight part, to some of our earlier episodes, the six part series on conflict, mechanisms for conflict resolution, and just by nature of engaging in conflict, no matter which methodology you choose in order to resolve it effectively you are fighting against that programming of you when you were, you know, six years old with a bow on your head and told, you know, Sally, sit up straight and stop fussing with your cousin.
Marsha Clark 28:08
Well, and look. We tell little girls, the first thing when they're cute or dressed well, you are so cute, or you are so pretty. We don't think about how smart they are, how athletic they might be, what good readers they might be, what good students they might be. Do some research about how to both describe and engage in a conversation with a young girl. And it's not you're so pretty and you stop. It's like, what's the best book you've read in the last month? (Right.) How do you like history? How do you like science? How do you like math?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:40
What's your favorite hobby?
Marsha Clark 28:41
Yeah, I mean, getting us out of the look pretty and keep your mouth shut. (Yes, exactly.) And I also call it, Wendi, we've got to color inside the lines.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:50
Yes. Yes. Yes. So the next reflection question always makes me really stop and examine my biases. And the question is, what stereotypes do you hold about other women from different generations? And honestly, I've never considered how strong my stereotypes were and sometimes still are. You know, you have that gut reaction about women in different generations other than my own as a Gen Xer, are. And the crazy thing is, I know women who are in the Boomer generation, present company included, and women who are Millennials, you know, my niece, who do not 100% fit into those stereotypes. But it's hard to let go of those internal stories. Why is that?
Marsha Clark 29:37
Well, I couldn't agree with you more. And, you know, the generational stuff is one of the things that I, many questions, many points of view, many opinions often not based in fact because it goes back to diversity is a fact, even if we're all women, we're not all the same. (Exactly.) You know, and I just want to say to you, Wendi, you're not alone, you know, defaulting to that. We all do it. We fall into that trap, hopefully only every once in a while. And even when we do, we remind ourselves what else can be true, right? That's where that question comes into play. So but these stereotypes are there for a reason. They offer a shortcut in our brains basically to sort and categorize events and people quickly so that, quote, unquote, "we can move on to the important things in our lives", you know. And think of stereotypes as the hard coded file folders in your brain that were being developed when you were very young. And I want our listeners to get this. 60% of a child's brain (and that's a typical number because it can go anywhere from 40 to 80) but 60% of a child's brain is developed by age five.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 30:43
Marsha Clark 30:44
So get that. Values typically instilled by age 10. Yeah, so these early messages are laying down those neural pathways of where those beliefs are coming from. And so those folders, as we're using that metaphor, have labels. And there could be a folder for home and one for school, separate folders for mom and dad, if you had both growing up, a folder for grandparents, again, a separate folder. And so your early experiences are the those that help you sort and label those folders. And you had your own lived experience with these people. And you had an additional layer of sorting and labeling happening as you read books or you watch television shows or movies, or even listen to stories told by those closest to you. I always think about the first time a child has a sleepover and they realize everybody doesn't do bedtime like they do or dinner like they do or you know, game night like they do. And so what was happening as you built this internal operational sorting system is that you more or less answered the mental questions. Moms are... and you can fill in the blank, you know, friendly, nice, loving, and dads are, you know, workers and leaders and stern or whatever. And teachers are and grandmas are and the list just goes on.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 32:02
Right, so we're building our own mental library of what does and doesn't fit into our neatly labeled folders. And that causes us to then react to people who we think go in those folders that certain way,
Marsha Clark 32:18
Right. And what happens is, we end up with what's called confirmation bias at a very early age. So my, you know, "moms are" folder likely starts with an image and the behaviors of my own mother or whoever might have been my mother figure. And then when I see the mothers of my friends who are similar, it reinforces my story about what and who moms are.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 32:42
Okay, so then what happens when we run into the mom who isn't like the stereotypical definition of a mom - artsy mom, when there's chain smoking and whatever?
Marsha Clark 32:54
So pretty much one of two things. And I don't want to oversimplify too much, but we either expand our definition and expectation of what and who moms are (so you might think about it as we make our mental folder bigger) or second possibility is we keep the folder small and create a nonconforming mom folder and we put that person in that folder. They don't fit my image or biased perspective of what a mom or dad or a family or whatever should be. They don't fit my story so I drop them into a different folder. (Okay.) And you know even as I'm talking now, I think about there's a third option which is somewhat similar to the first. I can either expand my folder to include, in this example, moms who don't fit my original label, or I can also change the label to be more inclusive of people who fall outside the stereotypical definition that I previously held. Either way, whether I expand my mental folder or redefine the label on the folder, I end up with a broader view and break down, you know, begin to deconstruct my previous stereotypical thinking. And I want to add something here. When I do exercises like powerful women are/powerful men are, powerful men are leaders is one of the top and most prevalent answers. Over the last 20 plus years, I am now hearing that powerful women are leaders. When I first started this work some 25 years ago, I rarely heard that powerful women are leaders. And I probably told our audience this before, I'd never worked for a woman because there were no women in leadership roles when I was coming up through the workforce. And so it wasn't a part of our file folder, you know, or an image that popped into our heads. And it's one of the so important reasons we need women in leadership roles. It's the I want to look at that and see myself (If you can see it you can be it.) That's right. So, why we want women at tables that matter.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 33:41
Exactly. So I love that through this you have the ability to expand or even abandon your stereotypes.
Marsha Clark 35:11
Yes, you can, you most definitely can. But you've got to be aware of them first, understand them second, which is what we try to do in the book with the questions that we're asking. And, you know, even with the other reflection questions, just to let our listeners know, how can you raise your awareness or your consciousness about the stereotypes that you hold?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 35:31
Yeah. That feels like it will be so much easier to do using this metaphor of the folders and the labels. And I know you also include a few additional questions in the book to help us start to unravel our biases regarding gender role expectations. But before we get to those, you have three more reflection questions that I think we should share.
Marsha Clark 35:53
Yeah, good idea. They're similar to the question about generational stereotypes. So we also ask, what stereotypes do you hold about women from different geographies? And it could be women in Texas, women in California, women in New York, it could be a US based difference, because there's differences. (Yep.) Or it could be a global difference. What about women in the Middle East who are very limited? You know, right now, we have so much going on with the women protesting in Iran about not wearing head coverings, and somehow that's so immoral that we must kill them. I mean, you know, so not wearing a head cover is worthy of killing a woman. I mean, that's, that's beyond my comprehension. And yet would that be true everywhere? I don't know. But it certainly when you see it on the news every night, it you know, it plays hard on you. And, you know, you can do this, I mentioned the powerful women are exercise a moment ago, you know, Gen X women are, Gen Z women are, you know, Buddhist women are, Christian women are, you know. I mean, you can create this kind of thing, and what are those words that come into your mind?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 37:08
Right, and I love this, that whole exercise. And I would offer to our listeners to kind of sit down and maybe think about that and do it again. And then, you know, I would also love for those who are mothers of girls who are in elementary, junior high and high school, do this exercise with them and see what they write down. That would be awesome. So I know it was in the Beyond Bossy, Bully and Bitchy episode. I love that title. And this exercise is amazing.
Marsha Clark 37:41
So again I go back to even if you're talking about whether it be Texas Women, Southern women are, you know, how would you fill that in? Steel magnolias, iron fist in a velvet glove. You know, women from New York, they wear black all the time and they're, you know, really direct, (Right.) all kinds of stuff about that. And you've been keeping up with the fight for women's autonomy in Iran. And that's basically the point. Your mental folder labeled Iranian women. That may or may not have even been a folder a month ago. (Exactly.) You know, so you've created one, you've labeled it and filled it with examples of evidence or, you know, badass women. And I happen to agree on that one. These are amazing women who are trying to break the stereotypes. And it's hard work with high risk. (Yes.) And yet, that's how stereotypes work. And if we spend a few extra minutes breaking down our stereotypes, we can see where they come from. And I don't know about you, Wendi, but I don't personally know any women currently living in Iran who are personally engaged, though I do have a woman who left Iran several years ago, and she and I are talking a lot right now.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 38:48
Wow. No, everything I know is about, you know, it's from the news, from the media.
Marsha Clark 38:55
Yeah. And that's the thing, important point about stereotypes. You can have them because you were raised with those beliefs. You heard your parents say something about it. And it can be reinforced through media, books, movies, as we said earlier, and they don't always originate from our own personal or lived experience.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 39:14
Yeah, so we're having our bias created for us, for or against someone else, by media and other outside influences, even though we've never actually met them personally or know anyone like them.
Marsha Clark 39:32
Yeah, it's a challenge for sure. And whether we're leading someone who is closed off and unwilling to expand their perspective or you know, add to their some additional mental folders, or it's someone in our inner circle, whether it be family members or neighbors, it can be tough to keep our own open mind and not just simply write them off.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 39:49
Yeah, definitely something to reflect on after this episode.
Marsha Clark 39:52
Yeah. And I think something else you said is really important to unpack, Wendi. Examining our own biases has huge, positive opportunities for us. And as a coach at a facilitator, I'm always going to advocate for doing things that really provide for that deep reflective work. And, you know, my message in the book is that we need to be aware of when we're applying stereotypes. And also when we are applying knowledge about a specific individual, based on firsthand experience. And we often focus on others applying stereotypes to us, you know, it's the finger pointing out there and how limiting that might be. And, you know, I add that we need to hold up the mirror to our own behaviors as well, because everybody's got stereotypes.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 39:52
Absolutely. Yep, because they can get us into an uncomfortable situation.
Marsha Clark 40:42
Yes, they can.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 40:43
Yeah. So you include a series of additional questions in the book that help us examine how our own stereotypes have been formed and or reinforced. And it's that list of examples you provide that are, that go beyond simple gender biases. And I found that to be a really powerful list as I was preparing for today's episode.
Marsha Clark 41:05
Yeah, people who know me or have been around me for very long know I love provocative questions. (Yes.) You know, the provocative, that's a list that's purposely provocative because I want to get people to really start examining what are my biases, and so on. So one of the initial questions from the book is, what stereotypes are you applying consciously or unconsciously? And just look around the people who may be different from you and how, how are you labeling them. And so when I walk the readers through a mental exercise in the book of where they might be holding some stereotypical beliefs, well, we can do that here with our listeners just as easily. So two things before we start, and I say this in the book as well. First, it may not be easy. It might feel uncomfortable when I have to look myself in the mirror and really admit that I have some biases or am holding some people in stereotype buckets. And that's okay. It probably means you're on a learning edge and that you're, you know, potentially digging into a sore spot. And answer honestly because I'm going to give you a series of descriptions of different people and as soon as you hear the full description, think of a word or phrase to describe how you feel about that person or that group of people. And we're going to do these one at a time. So listeners if you can, write them down. And Wendi, why don't you and I do one together so we get the idea of what we're trying to do here.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 42:35
Sounds great. Okay.
Marsha Clark 42:37
So Wendi, your initial thoughts or feelings about a woman who speaks up in a meeting.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 42:42
Oh, positive, definitely. She brave breaks the silence for the other women in the room, truly is embracing that. There is no stupid question or stupid comment or whatever. She's participating. She's shown up.
Marsha Clark 42:59
You know she's clear, she's strong. She's courageous. She has a point of view and she's willing, the courage of her convictions. So that's the example. So here's our second one. Your initial thoughts or feelings about a wealthy person.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 43:14
Okay, there, I don't go so much as to statements as questions in my mind, you know. How did they get there? What was their path to wealth? How hard was it? What's the story behind that? How are they using it? Do they have a foundation? Are they about philanthropy? You know, what are they? That fosters questions in me. I always want to know their story when I see the woman drive up in the Bentley with the you know, the bling and the stuff.
Marsha Clark 43:44
Right. And even the questions we ask because, you know, when I've, when I've ever done journaling, I never write down what I'm thinking because I've got questions all the time. My journaling is, how do I want to think about this? Or what should I do about that? Or, you know, so, even in our questions, it can show where our biases might lie or our stereotypical thinking.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 44:08
Okay, side note. I'm gonna start journaling differently. I love that idea.
Marsha Clark 44:13
Well, it opens up possibilities, but I'm asking myself the question.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 44:16
Yourself and your brain is going to go to work on that and formulate the answers. Okay, sidebar. Yeah, that was awesome. That was a nugget right there. Okay. All right. So, so again, going back to the wealthy person, I might have a little bit of skepticism also. Yes, my brain went to asking a bunch of questions, but I may have a little skepticism because there is the, you know, the belief out there that nobody who's successful is good. You know that the only way that they got their wealth is by being horrible. There are people who believe that, so that's probably going to affect how I file them away in air quotes, as well.
Marsha Clark 45:01
Yeah. And it also, I think, relates to our values bias, if I may say that. If I have money, I'm going to do good for all. Some people have money and that's not the way they think about it, or they may be doing good for their family first before they do for their community. But those are all part of the bias that we have. And so, you know, I hope our listeners that you've gotten the gist of this exercise. And so I'm going to read off some different prompts. And you know, this a very small sample of the types of stereotypes we all hold. So I don't want our listeners to think this is you know, all inclusive. And so again, get a piece of paper and just jot down your initial thoughts. And I'm going to just describe a certain something and write down what you think. A man who is ambitious who everyone knows is climbing the ladder. What are the words or phrases or questions that come in to mind when you think of that man. On the flip side, a woman who is ambitious who everyone knows is climbing the ladder. The next one is working moms. Again, on the flip side, stay at home moms. People with tattoos or piercings, women wearing head coverings, a small woman, a large woman, a black woman, a white woman. As you think over your responses, ask yourself whether your thoughts are rooted in a stereotype? Are you applying one experience that you've had with any one kind of person as we've described them in this list and are you taking that one experience and applying it to a much broader group?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 46:51
You know, this is really a gut punch of an exercise if I'm going to be honest, because some of your, your automatic responses might be more unflattering than others for sure. But yet, it's a powerful way to uncover and examine your exercises. So people, listeners, as you're going through this, don't gaslight yourself, like write down what you really think. And you know, you don't have to share it with anybody, but just the recognition is powerful.
Marsha Clark 47:21
Yeah, it's not easy work. (Right!) You know, especially when I am being honest with myself and I may uncover some uncomfortable truths about what my beliefs and behaviors are. And don't overthink this. I mean, we always give that advice as well. And I also It's one reason I really appreciate the Maya Angelou quote, which is, "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I can do better." So that to me is where the possibilities in getting clear about what our biases are. I did what I knew to do before I understood these biases and stereotypes. Now I can do better because I have a deeper understanding. And, and I love that it builds in room for also self forgiveness, compassion, and basically call to improve my actions.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 48:10
I love this quote. So please, one more time.
Marsha Clark 48:13
All right. "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 48:22
Wonderful. Thank you.
Marsha Clark 48:23
Yeah. So here's the thing, Wendi. We all do these things. We're all carrying around misconceptions about people and stories we make up about them, you know, whether it's based on appearance, age, background, religion, ethnicity, political party, socio economic status, how they're dressed, what car they drive, all of that. And we can spend our time beating ourselves up for how we behaved in the past or we can set a new intention out to change the way, to question some of those deeply held beliefs and say, How can I get past those stereotypes to know the person? And you know, some of the questions I use helped me shift my thinking. They're included in the book again, for those of you who are following along on page 37, how has this influenced or impacted your relationship with that person that you've somehow labeled? How have you been surprised after getting to know the person? How have your views changed after getting to know the person? Have they broadened? Have they shifted from you know, black to white or white to black? What stereotypes are you teaching or modeling for your children and this is one that I just think is so important when you go back to 60% of the brain developed by five and values by age 10. And you know, not only teaching and modeling for your children, but your colleagues, your team members, your you know, others, your customers, and how will you catch yourself when you find yourself applying a stereotype? And what are you going to do differently to get beyond that stereotype? Some big questions.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 49:52
Big questions. So Marsha, as we get ready to wrap up today, I want to make sure and offer our listeners the two reflection activities that you include in the book that really helped us unpack and consider our own worldview and that of others, especially in terms of how bias is formed.
Marsha Clark 50:10
Yeah, I'm happy to do that. The first activity is to do what I refer to as a personal inventory of my own story and how it was formed. And so the instructions are: pick three to five characteristics about your background, that you perceive as somewhat relatively unique in terms of your identity formation, as a woman, or a woman of a certain race, age, religion, or national ethnicity. And this could be about observed rituals, cultural practices, food, or certain stories or sayings that might have been passed down through your family, and explore the origins of these characteristics. When did you notice them? How old were you when you first begin to hear these? And how have you played into them, or practice them, reinforcing them? And how might you be passing those along to your family?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 51:05
Right. It's such a powerful exploration to give yourself the gift of uncovering these elements that have made you, you.
Marsha Clark 51:13
Yeah, and what I have found is that when we are in the mainstream, whether it be of race, ethnicity, you know, gender, generation, whatever, it becomes so automatic where we don't even think about it. (Right.) And these questions give us pause to slow down a minute and think about this. And so that's the introspective part of the activity. So you said there were two. The other suggestion to give you the contrast to recognize that we're not all the same (diversity is a fact), interview a person that you perceive as different from you and ask them to share three to five characteristics that are relatively unique and different about themselves, based on their differences from you. So you could do something similar with age, gender, race, or any of the other categories. And let them know that you're exploring your own stereotypes and that whatever questions you ask them, our listeners need to recognize, you need to be prepared to share the same about yourself. Don't ask someone a question to give answers that you're not willing to also share yourself. And ask them about the origin of those characteristics. And don't interrupt them, don't challenge them, don't deny them, you know. Take it in, considerate it and respect their perspectives. One of my favorite phrases these days is just because it's not your truth, doesn't mean it's not the other person's truth. So we really cannot speak about the experience of another with any credibility. And you know, compare the things that make you and the other person similar yet different, and work hard to do this without applying judgmental thoughts or language. You know, well, they're weird or you know, I'm normal, they're not normal. I do it better than them or worse than them. Yeah. You know, smart or not smart, whatever all those things might be.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 51:35
So I haven't done this activity yet in a formal way. But I'm already thinking about a couple of people in my life who would be fascinating to learn more about.
Marsha Clark 53:16
I love that, Wendi. It is an incredible learning experience. And it really can open our eyes to what else could be possible, or what else could be true.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 53:24
Absolutely. So we're wrapping up. And this has been another fantastic conversation and episode. What would you like to highlight for our listeners as a couple of key takeaways?
Marsha Clark 53:34
Yeah, just as our biases and gender expectations are very personal, I think the key takeaways for our listeners will be just as personal. They'll find their own nuggets of what really hit home with them, or struck them, or how ever they might say it. So different things are going to resonate with different people. And yet some things that are still spinning in my head that we've talked about today include the statistics about how much household workload women have to even out across both genders and that women would need to take the last four months of the year off. I mean, yeah, let's do that. (Yeah.) But that same gender couples tend to distribute the workload based on preferences, skills and available time. I just want our listeners to get that because that's still an option for them to get beyond the traditional roles. So what a novel concept, but I'm also reminded that it's tempting for opposite sex couples to fall into that trap of oh, she's better at taking care of the children, washing the dishes, packing lunches so that's why she does it, when in reality they may both be equally competent, have the same availability, but they've fallen into the traditional trappings that moms do X and dads do Y. And finally, I think another key point is to check in with your own biases and notice when and where they show up whether it's the person who's in the car next to us, if they're driving a certain kind of car, or I'm driving in a certain part of town, or the person is an older person or someone who doesn't look like me. And yet, it's not about beating ourselves up or trying to be perfectly bias free. Nor is it that we should just trust everybody absolutely. I mean, there are places where we need to be cautious, given facts not just stereotypes. (Right.) And because if you know, we're just beating ourselves up, that's not realistic or helpful. It's about being honest, and having some self compassion and really trying every day to do better. And I often say that our choice point is not whether we're going to have stereotypes because we will, and we do. Our choice point comes in whether or not we're going to hold on tightly to those stereotypes and bring those into my possibility of relationships with others.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 55:48
So powerful. What a great conversation today, Marsha!
Marsha Clark 55:52
Well, thank you, Wendi. I hope that our leaders, or our listeners rather, found value in all this because it's rich, it's deep, and it's uncomfortable.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 56:00
And yes, yes, uncomfortable, but very well worth it. So everyone, thank you for joining us today on our journey of authentic, powerful leadership. Please download, subscribe and share this podcast from wherever you like to listen. Visit Marsha's website at marshaclarkandassociates.com. again, for links to the tools we talked about today, the book so that you can follow along. Get her book off her website. And you can also subscribe to Marsha's email list so you can know everything that's going on in her world because she's got a lot of great things coming up.
Marsha Clark 56:38
Thank you, Wendi. And again, let me echo Wendi's sentiments and thank our listeners. Some of the things we talk about are light hearted and make us feel included and all those things. These introspective things that make us really look in the mirror and challenge ourselves, I just again want to acknowledge it's hard work. And yet the payoffs are tremendous by either getting to know ourselves better, or recognizing how our stereotypes can get in the way of building really meaningful, strong relationships. I look forward to hearing from you. We always love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions, whatever you may have. And as always, here's to women supporting women!