Shankar Vedantam recently spoke on NPR about research looking into why woman may be opting out of business school. I listened and thought about how under-represented woman often are in the field of emergency management and how this research may help me understand why.
The research suggested women more often see things as ethically black or white while men tend to see things as more gray. It suggests that this ethical dilemma may be discouraging woman from proceeding further into a business career because they don’t want to comprise their values.
Thinking back to my own experience in Homeland Security, the woman I do know in the emergency management field, both the public and private sector, often do standout because of their strong ethical commitment. While this is admirable, I hadn’t looked at this as added value women bring to the discussion. Also, I hadn’t fully considered that any “ethical perception” of my largely male profession could be the initial barrier to anyone looking to begin a career of service, but maybe I should.
If we are going to advance as a profession, we need to look at all of the cultural, financial, and ethical barriers to access. That includes celebrating the ethics of our core values and communicating honestly that we may not always have the luxury of doing everything ethically “black or white” during an emergency, but that we are trying to do what is right.
Breaking down barriers to access is no different than conducting any threat assessment. Look at your core functions, validate your capabilities and recognize your weaknesses and challenge tour team to do better.