Sunday, March 24, 2013

Leaning In: Is there a Gender Gap on Community Association Boards?

I just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, about women, work and the leadership gap that still exists. For those of you who don't know, Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and her book has stirred up quite a bit of water cooler talk.

The premise of Sandberg's book is that women and men have to both lean in to embrace roles that traditionally have not been their territory. For women, that means filling leadership roles at the office and for men, that means pushing for more time at home and with the kids.

Despite the controversy surrounding Sandberg's book, I found it to be filled with nonjudgmental observations by a woman of my generation who has filled quite a few interesting seats from the Treasury Department to Google to Facebook.

So what does this book and its topic have to do with your community association?

It got me thinking about whether or not there is a gender gap on most community association boards? One of the themes in Sandberg's book is that most women don't push for a seat at the table. When I meet with different types of association boards, I usually find both genders represented on the board, seated comfortably at the same table and the women are hardly reticent to express their opinions. However, if I had to do a more formal poll, I'd probably say there are more men sitting on boards than women, at least from what I've seen.

I think back to my own HOA board and at the time I served, I was the only woman out of the 5 directors who was female. I was also a few decades younger than my counterparts. I was asked to be the Secretary of the board because that was what the "female director" did. I declined and one of the other directors begrudgingly took on that task. Later I was asked to resign and I declined that offer as well.

I do think that the older the demographic on a board of directors, the less this gender gap shows up. Why? Perhaps it is because the older you get, your perspective and your inhibitions change and you grow a little bolder?

Far too many associations complain (both rightly and wrongly) that there is little to no leadership qualities displayed by their board of directors. Is that lack of leadership attributable to a gender gap or something else.

What do you think?

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