The Female Leadership Bias Trap Can Be Flipped into a Powerful Positive Bias with Smart Humor.

I am a male feminist. That means I am committed to doing everything I can to reduce and eliminate sexism towards women wherever I find it.

As a man, there is no sexism hindering my success. No ‘gender bias’ limiting my opportunities or causing people to be concerned about my competency.

At work, being likable and having a sense of humor adds to people’s view of my professional reputation and competency. It might cause some to see me as leadership material.

But at work, women are often not seen the same way as men.

Robin Hauser, in her TED Talk, ‘The Likability Dilemma for Women Leaders spoke with compelling insight on the challenge of female leadership bias at work.

In her talk, she says:

“I did a little research and I came across something called The Competence – Likability Dilemma, where women, unlike men, are rarely perceived to be both competent and likable. The dilemma for women is that the qualities that we value in leadership, such as assertiveness and decisiveness, go against societal norms of what it is to be a ‘likable’ woman. Clearly, leadership and likability should not be mutually exclusive for women or for men. So how do we solve for this dilemma?”

She raises important questions. Sadly bias judgments drive so much of our perceptions of each other.

For example, if you walked into a presentation and heard what some audience members were thinking as the speaker stood up to speak you might hear something jarring yet not surprising like this:

“There is no way this gangly woman from accounting is going to be worth my time.”

“There is no way this height-challenged, crewcut engineer is going to be worth my time.”

“There is no way this aging, bespectacled, retiring executive is going to be worth my time.”

As humans, we are quick to judge. We have an instant negative bias towards one another over gender, looks, race, accent, age, height, weight, hairstyle, hairline, clothing, ethnicity, power, and wealth, or the lack of it. You get the picture. We can be unkind, cold-hearted, and brutally judgemental. Like dogs at their worst.

No wonder people have a fear of public speaking. Who wants to get in front of a room knowing all this is going on.

Now for the good news. Whether you’re a woman leader who wants to enjoy the same likability and competency lens that male executives enjoy, or someone who has felt the sting of a negative bias, there is a remedy to this cold-hearted reptilian brain bug.

It’s called ‘charming, feel-good, high-performance humor’ (as compared to crass everyday consumer-grade courtesy laugh humor.)

In a minute I will tell you exactly where you can find this effective laugh-inducing professional-grade humor, but first, we’re going to take a quick ninety-second ‘humor break’ to refresh your attention with a comedy video.

Why a comedy video?

Because it’s phenomenal.

And because I want you to notice the emotional state you’re in right now before seeing it, and then notice your emotional state after seeing it.

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