I wrote a post on “Perpetuating the In Group”, and a classmate of mine picked up on a particular line that highlighted my bias. I stated in the post that I have more in common with young professionals than I do with stay-at-home-moms, and she noted that she has several SAHM acquaintances with MBAs from fancy schools, or former VPs of Fortune 500 companies. However, these women have left the workforce to care for their kids.
This is interesting, because there’s a lot of articles that talk about the cost of childcare vs. a salary, and women making a choice to stay home. My gut reaction to my classmate’s anecdote is that it’s a perfect example of how perpetuating the in group can cause you to miss out on knowledge, perspective, and connections. Upon further reflection, my reaction was that we don’t have much in common, because I would never leave the workforce. But, peeling back another layer, I can’t say how I would react to having children, since I don’t have any children at the moment. How do I know I would never leave the workforce? How do I know that just because these women left formal, paid positions at large companies, they aren’t keeping their skills sharp by volunteering, freelancing, or working on higher degrees? The answer is, I don’t. I don’t know their motivation for leaving the workforce… maybe that was their plan all along. And if that was their plan, maybe we’re more similar than I thought. I’m a planner, and I’ve taken strategic steps to set my life on a certain path. Just because that path doesn’t lead to the same destination as these women doesn’t mean that we’re all that different in terms of intelligence, ambition, and earning power.
It’s really interesting to dig into what you personally think makes someone “like you”. But, once you realize that you’ve still got a lot of underlying assumptions, you’ve got to figure out a way to overcome the bias. I’d say a few probing questions would be a great first step… you might realize you have more in common than you think!