Thursday, July 1, 2010

Life-Long Learning, Analytics, and Being Members of a Club

The Pew Research Center has released another study through its Global Attitudes Project in conjunction with The International Herald Tribune, which is reported on in The New York Times, and which will surely generate provocative discussions.

According to the study, which surveyed people in 22 different countries, people say that they firmly support equal rights for men and women, but many still believe that men should get preference when it comes to good jobs, higher education or even in some cases the simple right to work outside the home.

The poll, conducted in April and May, suggests that in both developing countries and wealthy ones, there is a pronounced gap between a belief in the equality of the sexes and how that translates into reality. In nations where equal rights are already mandated, women seem stymied by a lack of real progress, the poll found.

Several quotes in The New York Times article, by female professors, especially resonated with me. Professor Herminia Ibarra, who teaches organizational behavior at INSEAD, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France, is quoted as saying: There are still very few women running large organizations, and business culture remains resolutely a boys’ club. And a quote by Professor Jacqui True, who teaches at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, stated: When you’re left out of the club, you know it. When you’re in the club, you don’t see what the problem is.

Clearly, women, as professionals, may belong to several "clubs," in which they can be valued members (or not) -- from their immediate departments in their academic or employer organizations to different professional organizations or societies and communities.

What is essential is that professionals understand and take part in activities of organizations that are broader in scope than simply their local ones. In this sense, they can obtain not only sustenance in being part of larger communities but they can also engage in life long learning opportunities and build relationships that they can rely upon when the "going gets tough."

Women's professional voices are being increasingly heard -- through podcasts and even through blogs and social networking sites.

I would like to single out, as an example, the learning resources of INFORMS, one of the professional societies that I belong to, which through the extraordinary efforts of Barry List, has put together a series of podcasts of wide interest and relevance. You will see that several podcasts are interviews with female experts. If you would like to see the full list in digital format, just click here.

Students and future generations need to see many different role models in terms of gender and race since the myriad problems that the world is facing from the environment to inequality to wars and strife cannot be addressed through the eye of a needle.