Are all leaders now "she"?

I'm not sure, but I think it started with Seth Godin's writings (which I love). Unfortunately his decision to use the feminine when he talks about achievements is actually not a good thing. Or at least it turned out that way.

Somewhere along the line, it became a near-requirement by editors that business writers - particularly men - use "she" as the generic - rather than what had come to be considered the sexist "he."

I'm not sure if anyone realizes that they've done the same thing - only in the pejorative - by 'standardizing' the "she." Now "she" is the sexist term.

Read business blogs, books, magazine articles and you'll find the same thing: When something 'good' is done, it's done by a "she." When it's a bad thing, it's the 'he' who did it.

Neither is right - but having standardized to "she" is the worst thing of all. Just as the generic "he" wasn't actually (or meant to be) descriptive, it's the meaning that's assigned that's the problem.

This is a socialization thing. For men, it becomes an unconscious competition. For women, it's the pressure of expectation.

Granted, everyone wanted to get away from the ungainly "he/she," "him/her," "his/hers" or the next stage "she/he," "her/him," "hers/his" that had been adopted - but at least that was trying to create a balance. No one's even trying anymore.

It's a funny thing. Fifteen years ago when I wrote my book, Executive Thinking*, I used what I considered to be the generic throughout. That meant I used "he."

The editors and sales folks had a fit. They hated it. They told me that I had written a sexist book, that women wouldn't buy it and that men would use it as an example and excuse to continue their sexist ways. (They were all women.)

Their solution was that they wanted every "he" to be turned into a "he/she" or its necessary equivalent.

I said no. As I explained to them, all the he/she did was break up the reading experience. It didn't send a message either way - except to their bosses that a lot of extra paper and ink was going to be needed and that that would up the cost.

Instead, they allowed me to edit the book for sexism myself. (Does it occur to any of you - as it did to me - that the fact that they were accusing a successful woman of being a male chauvinist is far off the mark?) As a result, the book is evenly divided. The key executive role described shifts back and forth between the sexes so that, ultimately, equality is created.

Interestingly, the first question I always receive from anyone who reads it is whether that was intentional. It was and it still is.

As a result, as you see in my writings for this blog and other pieces of mine that are published, I don't do either the 'old' generic "he" or the 'new' generic "she." That's because I think they're both self-indulgent and affected.

Instead, when I'm telling a story about a person, that person is going to be a person - without assigned gender - unless absolutely necessary. You get to use your imagination.

On the other hand, if I'm giving direct advice, I'm going to be talking to you. Yes, you.

Why? Because you know who you are. You don't need me to tell you whether your gender is going to impact your success. You're creating it for yourself.
*Executive Thinking is currently out of print but you can still get copies here.