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50's images of womenI’m on a mission to help organizations achieve gender diversity in leadership. Having more women (along with men) at the top is good for bottom-line results. I am out to expose and eradicate anything that gets in the way of women being able to reach their potential. One category of such things is unconscious mind-sets. Mind-sets are ways we think that arise from our early-life experiences and our culture. They can seep in surreptitiously and remain unconscious.

When you look at this ad (one of many), is it any wonder there are unconscious mindsets that hold women back? These ads were common back when I was a start-up. Back when my parents were grownups. This is how my dad thought! He didn’t see anything wrong with it. And he didn’t think about how this would impact his daughters and future generations. It was just in the air we breathed. I breathed it, too.

I was not consciously aware of the fact my father discounted the value of women until I was in my early 20’s. I was in law school and married to my first husband, then a young attorney. At the dinner table, I heard my father say to my spouse, “Caroline can’t be as good an attorney as you are.” I was dumb-founded. I asked him to repeat himself. He did. I asked him, “If mother had gone to medical school, do you think she could have been as good a doctor as you?” “No,” he replied. OMG, here out in the open was the mind-set that influenced the air in which I had been raised!

By the way, I set out to prove my father wrong. I became a very successful attorney and executive (to be honest, outshining my then-spouse). And now I am committed to helping create a world that honors and values men and women equally. When I get frustrated about obstacles facing women, I remember what my father said. I remember what was in the air just a few decades ago. I understand rather than judge the mind-sets that underlie “mansplaining,” the “double bind,” gendered definitions of leadership, women getting “talked over” in meetings, and women having to earn credibility that is more automatically granted men.

I may not judge these mindsets. But I sure am out to prove them wrong!

In what ways do mind-sets from the 1950’s still influence the experience of women?