Just because you are female, young and enjoying life does not mean you cannot be a strong leader.
And the recent controversy around Sanna Marin says a lot about the problems and biases still preventing women achieving equality.
It all comes down to the most dangerous word: “should”.
In the past week, the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, was seen in a leaked social media video to be dancing and apparently a bit drunk. She looked like she was having the time of her life.
And for some reason, the reaction around the world has been a mixture of horror as to how someone in power could behave like that, and on the other hand support for her right to love her life.
Some of the negative reaction began from the opposition politicians in her own country. This is completely expected, as politicians try to find any reason to bring down their opponents.
But then media outlets began picking up the story. And the way they reported it some volumes. Instead of saying directly that she had done something wrong, many of them asked the question:
“Should she have been behaving like this?”
And it is that single word that is the issue here:
“Should” implies that the proper action would be maybe not to do things like that. To do things the way others in that position would do them. To keep the status quo, as some people may disprove or be offended.
Other politicians don’t go dancing and singing when they are drunk, so perhaps Sanna ‘should’ not either.
The difference is that many politicians are not female, young and having grown up at a time when young people enjoyed life by going partying. Sanna is the youngest Head of State in the world, she is not like other older politicians (who I am sure many of whom did far worse things than dance when they were drunk).
But the fact that she is also a woman makes things doubly difficult.
For centuries, women have been told there was a proper way they “should” behave.
And when women began to become more independent in the workplace, they could be feminine in the typically female job roles. But if they wanted to be taken more seriously and be promoted to the highest leadership positions, there were things they should do.
How they should dress.
How they should talk.
How they should act.
How they should treat others.
In most cases, they “should” be more like the men who were already in these leadership positions.
We have already seen research showing that women are less likely to have people listen to their ideas than men.
There are many psychological biases as to why that is. One of the most powerful is the ‘in group bias“, where people like other individuals more of they are similar to them, and dislike people who are different.
This results in people who are similar to those in power, in leadership positions, being promoted more regularly.
And it is still a reason why women, and anyone else who is diverse or different from those leaders, have additional unnecessary hurdles to overcome in order to get equality.
So I say screw “should”
Sanna has already proven herself to be a highly competent leader. She does not need to be judged against whether she should act the same way as other leaders.
Because she is not other leaders.
She is herself.
We are all ourselves.
And we can all decide how we want to live our lives, and progress in our careers.
And if other people think we should not be doing something, it says more about them and their biases than it does about us.
Have you ever experienced someone telling you, or just implying, that you “should” act differently if you want to be more like the bosses or respected.
Let me know.
Latest posts by Nick Skillicorn (see all)
- Self-Serving bias: Why you think nothing is your fault - August 9, 2023
- We are all sheep - August 2, 2023
- Planning fallacy: Why we are so bad at predicting how long something will take - July 27, 2023
- Pygmalion effect: The self-fulfilling prophecy - July 24, 2023