From the Desk of an Extrovert: Why Reading Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, Was Powerful
By Guest Blogger and Global Tech Women Advisory Board Member Dr. Caroline Simard
I am an extroverted extrovert. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I am at the very end of the I-E spectrum; a capital “E” – as extroverted as you can find. I like networking, public speaking, and even meetings. I love social media, chats, dinner parties, and connecting to others in any way I can. As a child, I was bored exactly a half day after school was out for the summer. In my first job, my boss quickly figured out that the best way to motivate me was to send me out to meet with external clients and partners. Whatever advice I could give to others in terms of managing a career and family life always comes back to people skills (and a sense of humor). If I am exhausted and tired, I can think of nothing more energizing than seeing friends and socializing.
I have been surprised to find myself the mother of an introvert. My teenage daughter’s idea of bliss is time alone being creative through writing or drawing; she doesn’t join all sorts of clubs or activities; you won’t see her posting pictures or comments incessantly on Facebook or Instagram (as opposed to her mom). Raising her has sometimes been an experience in cross-cultural communication (“what do you mean, you don’t want to sign up for soccer/gymnastics/student body leadership? What do you mean you don’t want us to host a dinner party?”).
Sometimes, I can clearly see that my daughter is getting the message from all sides (the school counselor, her mom, her friends) that she should want to join all these things – Speak up! Take your seat at the table! Put yourself out there! Get involved! Being an advocate for the advancement of women, I have often repeated that advice.
This is why reading Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, was so powerful for me. As familiar with diversity issues as I am, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about unconscious bias toward introverts, and how our implicit preference for extroversion shapes our institutions and leads to a loss of talent. Look at any job description in tech or in any other field – nowhere do we focus on “the ability to listen and reflect” – instead, we look for “outspoken, assertive, energetic leaders”. Our promotion structures rewards extroverts – those who take the floor and assert their voice over others. We routinely give advice to women to be more assertive and outspoken. This advice can work for some, but what about when it fundamentally goes against your preferred style?
There are major consequences for our bias toward extroverts – not only do we miss out on the ideas and leadership potential of introverts, but we screen the talent pool for extroversion. Cain begins her book by discussing her visiting of the Harvard MBA program and asking to speak to an introvert…. And coming up empty handed. Nobody could point to a single introvert in the MBA student body. Fields such as computer science are more famously welcoming to introverts – yet, advancement into leadership positions still seems to be predicated upon the ability to “speak up” and be “assertive”.
Despite my own extroversion, I have always admired those technical women leaders who showcase a different style – those who listen before jumping in; those whose comments are right on point because they carefully measure their words; those who lead by consensus and listening rather than by telling others what to do. I have much to learn from introverts – and I can’t wait to see my own daughter grow into her own leadership style – one that doesn’t fit a stereotypical notion of how a leader should behave, but one that is true to her own vision and style. As Susan Cain herself writes, “The charisma of ideas matters more than a leader’s gregarious charms.”
From the GTW Staff: We hope you will join us in the launch of our Book Group and read Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking! Our first meet-up is Friday, June 28th at 11am PST/ 2pm EST