Over the weekend, we were driving back from Brisbane in the early evening. Traffic was brisk on the highway, when we were suddenly forced to brake as another car swung across the lane we were travelling in and almost took out the front of our car.

They had obviously missed their exit, as with a roar of acceleration they disappeared up the ramp and into the Queensland gathering darkness.

I was outraged … but even more so when the husband said bitterly “Women Drivers!”

The car that swung across in front of us was moving very fast, and in the gathering dusk the driver was merely a shape hunched over the steering wheel; and yet the husband had automatically assumed that the driver was female.

(Personally I thought the driving was far too aggressive to be a female – there’s not a whiff of prejudice in me!!)

But it did bring home the fact that when we are under pressure sometimes even the most liberal of us can revert to stereo typing.

Someone once said that we stereotype others so that they conform to the types of people we want them to be; So that we accuse them of characteristics which support our preferred view of the world. For instance – ‘All teenagers are lazy’ is the stereotypical complaint, but it covers a view that teenagers are incapable of a mature outlook and accepting responsibility. I wish I could find the name of that book!

Women are bad drivers is another stereo typical attitude that covers the deeper belief that they should not be driving at all – probably they should be at home in the kitchen (where they belong!)

Most women who have chosen a career outside of the home are familiar with the attitude of some within the workplace (and not all of them are men by the way!). It usually starts with the words “You women can’t ….” and then goes on to a list of complaints which obviously prohibits women from positions of authority – because at the base of it all is the widely held belief that “Women can’t be good leaders

At least that is what is said – but if wonder if what they mean is that “Women should not be leaders at all!”

If true, under the circumstances of life such an assumption is breathtaking in its arrogance – after all when women have given birth to the future leaders of this world, who is it that nurtures and guides them through their early days? Their mothers of course. And quite frankly, I believe that is much more important for the future of the planet than any man made carbon tax!

If then women are capable – no! expected to undertake such responsibility (often alongside maintaining a necessary outside job) – undertake it without any training, without leadership degrees what does that say about their leadership skills?

It says that they are really very capable of exhibiting leadership; but that it will probably be far different from those skills that are presently extolled in business –which are mainly defined by men.

But ‘different from’ does not mean that the other style is ‘better than’ – which is a stereotypical attitude that has no basis in reality.

Unfortunately, there are still many who believe that the leadership qualities shown by men (being the norm) are better than those demonstrated by women, Female leadership traits -being different from those of men – are obviously inferior.

In reality there are many men who adopt predominantly female leadership styles, such as ‘inclusive leadership’ to great effect. And there are plenty of women who can be as decisive and as authoritarian as men when the situation demands it. The truth is often different from the stereotypical attitude.

Luckily there are more and more people rejecting the assumptions of values in leadership styles – however, when the pressure is on we so often revert to stereotypes – don’t we?

Just ask the chastened husband!!

Michele @ Trischel

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