What’s Gender Got to Do With it?

While flying to Toronto recently, I struck up a conversation with the flight attendant.  

She mentioned that in one more day, she gets to go home and be with her kids, and then work on her garage. Her garage, I asked? Yes, it’s quite Zen, she stated. Now, I’m not sure about you, but I have not put Zen and garage together in the same sentence before.  Man cave, husband hideaway, my domain, the guy zone – sure - but never have I heard a woman say that the garage is her Zen.

It turns out that she is a welder and creates metal sculptures out of her garage. Westjet flight attendant by day, welder by night, and the next phase, possible pilot. So, here we have a girl who obviously loves mechanics, likes to build things, work with her hands, and stay on the move. From a societal gender perspective, what would we typically call her?  A “tomboy”!

Where did those stereotypes come from? We needn’t look far into the past to notice how the female’s traditional roles have been to take care of the children and the home (do the nurturing), and let the male go out and weld, and fly, and build (do the fun stuff!). What about the male who never wanted to pick up a hammer, or go play in the dirt, or build the fort - how did we label him?

Have you ever thought that these traits surrounding “who we are” are instinctive?

Couldn’t they be internally driven, innate, and simply what is?  Instinct has nothing to do with gender or gender-based labels like “tomboy” or its equally disparaging counterpart, “sissy”. We are seeing an encouraging trend away from traditional gender roles for women, with more females driving the packer, building houses, changing tires, and running the forklift.

Companies are making the deliberate, wise choice to embrace the instinctive talents of people, as simply, people. All gender identities are being appreciated and valued when they are free to be themselves and do what makes them happy while providing great value back to the company. Win – win.

Understanding the instinctive traits of those around you benefits everyone. Get rid of the gender labels and the stereotypes. Give people the freedom to simply “be”. The world needs everyone to contribute to the whole. When it comes to people’s natural strengths, gender’s got nothing to do with it.   

Now, “what’s love got to do with it?” - That’s a whole other topic. Tina, care to chime in?

Warren Barry