Over 35 years, I worked for various bosses at various newspapers. I had some very bad bosses who were men. And some very good bosses who were women.
I also had some very bad female bosses, and some very good male bosses.
Their abilities and talents had virtually nothing to do with gender.
Still, the argument that women are better at leading organizations — governments, businesses, nonprofits — is paraded before us again and again.
At an appearance in Singapore in December, former President Barack Obama said the world would be a better place if women were in charge:
“There would be less war, kids would be better taken care of, and there would be a general improvement in living standards and outcomes,” Obama told an audience at a private event.
About the same time, back in the states, actor Martin Sheen, who used to play president on TV, claimed at a climate protest that the world needed to be saved by women.
These are intended as compliments, but I find them patronizing.
And ridiculously inaccurate.
As Sheen and Obama were gushing about women, a United Nations court was investigating claims of genocide in Myanmar, a nation led by a woman, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Her administration is accused of oppressing and killing members of an ethnic minority.
Hardly the kind of behavior one would expect of a woman.
Or a man.
It shouldn’t be that difficult to treat men and women as individuals, rather play to banal stereotypes. It makes no more sense to laud all women for great leadership attributes than it does to view all women as enticements to sin.
That’s the other end of the spectrum. Some conservative politicians and officials have proudly pronounced that they won’t meet with a woman one-on-one because of their religion.
I’m not sure which is more absurd: to view women as saintly leaders or believe they all evil temptresses from whom men must be protected.
Kansans don’t need to look far to figure out that women differ in their opinions, political skills and management styles.
Consider state Senate President Susan Wagle and Gov. Laura Kelly. Not only do the two have opposing views on most issues, but they have differing leadership styles. Wagle likes hardball politics, threatening and punishing those who don’t further her agenda. Kelly likes trading favors, making compromises many in her own party oppose.
The arguments that women are more collegial, more willing to work on bipartisan efforts, or are better at building consensus are undoubtedly true — for some women.
But certainly not all.
I don’t intend to undercut efforts to make our governments and businesses more diverse. Our political systems, companies and nonprofits would be improved if they effectively emulated our society.
Over the years, it has become clear that organizations with a commitment to diversity better understand and incorporate wider ranges of opinions and needs. That’s in contrast to homogenous outfits, in which views are shaped by a narrow set of experiences and in which leaders work primarily to further their own interests.
Leaders who welcome differing experiences and points of view are more likely to respect the dignity and interests of others.
Neither sex has a monopoly on such attributes. To suggest otherwise is to fall into the same sort intellectual rut that leaves us stuck with useless stereotypes.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.