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Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Chairman!

I just read a news item on the dilema of State Bank of India on a sticky issue of how to address their first ever woman leader.  Should it be "Chairman" as the rule book says, Or as "Chairperson" as the new traditions of the society?  

I realise that professional titles cannot be gender specific.  A manager is a manger whatever be the gender of the title holder.  Aren't we collectively, consisting of men and women, addressed as "Mankind"?   In a manufacturing organization they don't have "Foreperson" or "Forewoman", the position is "Foreman" irrespective of the gender of the person performing the function.

There are naming confusions which were never resolved, like the President's wife is a "First Lady" which is a ceremonial title as a First Lady has some protocols to observe!  How do we address the President's husband?  Will it be "First Gentleman" or simply "First Man"? 

However, there are justifiable gender equivalent titles where gender differentiation is of consequence, like for example "host" to "hostess",  or, "Master" to "Mistress"!   That leads me to an anomaly which must have been the result of ill informed activism when, someone indeed decided to rename the position of "Head Master" to that of "Head Mistress" as there is a provision made to differentiate a "Master" from a "Mistress" however absurd it may sound at times.

Ultimately the culture that we adopt shapes the language we speak!   Social bias and belief based on such bias determining gender specific competencies to perform certain jobs and roles, leads to a job being titled reflecting a gender specific naming convention, eg. "Midwife"!  I remember a global customer service leadership conference of a multinational company that I was part of, where I was the lone male member!  We are living in a time when there is absolute equality in terms of what the genders  can professionally accomplish.  We cannot ever determine a specific, job, task or function as feminine or masculine, with the exception of, may be, conceiving and delivering a child in a natural manner, and there we can absolutely have gender specific naming convention.

Finally, the news article did mention that the State Bank of India board did name and decide to call their first woman Leader as "Chairman" as their policy did not offer another option to address their leader.  That's settled, then!

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